• Mike Dominick

I Don't Know the Man!

Peter had reason to be afraid that night by the fire outside the High Priest's house. Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Peter had followed, at a distance.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. (Matthew 26:57-58 NIV)

His world was falling apart. His Master was on trial before the Sandedrin - the Jewish Ruling Council. His mind was spinning. And then, he was perhaps caught off guard by an accusation:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. (Matthew 26:69 NIV)

And so Peter denied and disowned Jesus that night by the fire. "I don’t know what you’re talking about." But it didn't stop there. Peter moved away from her, picking a spot at the gateway.

Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” (Matthew 26:71 NIV)

And so Peter denied Jesus again at the gateway. "I don’t know the man!” This time Matthew tells us Peter denied it "with an oath." So he either used the "so help me God" card, or swore at the second servant girl! And still the accusations didn't stop.

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” (Matthew 26:73 NIV)

This time Peter is desperate to divert the attention and the accusation.

Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:74 NIV)

And then, Peter heard a sound that cut to his soul. A rooster crowed in the darkness of the first morning light. And Peter remembered.

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Matthew 26:33-34 NIV)

Peter had claimed bravely he would never fall away from Jesus. And Jesus, who knew Peter better than Peter knew himself, predicted three denials before the rooster would crow.

The heat of the moment. Fear and dismay. We can understand how Peter could try to defend himself by claiming not to know Jesus, can't we? However, when I read this story, it is not just compassion that causes me to understand how Peter could do something like this. It is recognition. It is my own experience.

I am Peter and Peter is me. In the heat of the moment, and in fear and defense against rejection or harm, I have denied my Lord. In desperation and self-preservation, I have refused to be identified with Him in the face of criticism or accusation. Identifying with Jesus in the face of the world's power looks very much like an arrest and trial and execution in and around Jerusalem that night. And we have Jesus's own warnings, ringing in our ears.

Everyone will hate you because of me. (Luke 21:17 NIV)

Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11 NIV) Notice Jesus did not say if you are arrested, but whenever you are arrested...

In Peter, we have a glimpse into our own weakness and failure. We could have spoken up for that kid at school who was being bullied, but we were afraid. Or worse, we even joined in the shaming to fit in at the cool kid's table at lunch. Stopping after work for a beer with the guys and telling a few off-color jokes isn't too much of a price to pay to fit in is it?

And then the rooster crows. And then the Spirit whispers to our heart, "What are you doing here? How does this show anyone you love Jesus?" and conviction sets in. Or we have become so practiced at fitting in that conviction does not set in because our conscience is calloused.

The end of the incident is sad and I too have felt the remorse.

And he [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75b NIV)

But the end of the incident is not the end of the story. Peter received grace. He was forgiven and restored both in his relationship with Jesus and in his calling as an Apostle when Jesus met the disciples at the shore while they were fishing. Jesus had prepared a simple meal of roasted fish.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17 NIV)

Three denials. Three questions. Three opportunities to affirm Peter's love for Jesus. He was forgiven and he was redeemed.

Jesus knows our weakness, and He knows our love for Him. He meets our denials with grace and forgiveness and restoration. Peter's story is my story. And I am so glad it is in the Bible. Peter and you and I and every other follower of Jesus Christ have all fallen short of the glory of God - sometimes in weakness, and sometimes intentionally and willfully. And Jesus loves us still. What a Gospel. What a Savior!

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