“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75 (NIV)
I tried really hard to remember a time when someone denied knowing me. I couldn’t really think of one. There was a time in high school when my homecoming date ignored me the whole dance and didn’t dance with me even one time. I sorta felt denied that night. But, he wasn’t someone who was that important to me.
Peter was one of Jesus’ best friends. Jesus had the Twelve that he called his apostles, but he also had three who he chose to keep even closer. Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus on many extra occasions, just the three of them and Jesus. They were allowed in the room when Jesus healed Jarius’ daughter. They went up the mountain with Jesus and saw the transfiguration. They went with him to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was crucified.
It must have hurt Jesus to have Peter deny knowing him. This was Peter, the man who had promised to die with him. This was Peter, who when asked if he wanted to leave and stop following Jesus too, answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:68-69) This was Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends.
But Jesus knew Peter would deny him. He predicted that before the rooster crowd twice, Peter would deny him three times. There is a verse in Luke that breaks my heart, “Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62)
Can you imagine the feeling of Jesus turning and looking straight at you? Can you imagine if this look was right after you had denied knowing him? Peter’s heartbreak would have been nearly unbearable. As awful as Jesus would have felt knowing his closest friend had denied even knowing him, Peter must have felt just as terrible knowing he had denied knowing his closest friend. It is hard to find out we are not as strong as we thought. Pride definitely does come before the fall.
You might not think of Peter’s original response to Jesus’ warning that he would deny him as prideful, but it was. Jesus warned Peter he would deny him before the night was over. Peter did not trust Jesus’ word. He did not ask God to help him stand strong. He did not stay awake all night praying, asking God to give him the strength to stand up with Christ. Instead, he responded with pride. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35)
Peter thought his desire to stand up for Jesus was enough. He thought he was capable of handling the situation in his own strength.
Our flesh is so weak! We cannot live this Christian life on our own. We must live every day filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only then, when we live dependent on God, that we can ever stand strong in the face of persecution.
Personal Response: Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to give you strength every day?