Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

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.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:31-35)

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

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.”

He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. 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: 69-75)

As mentioned in a previous post, Peter was the quintessential servant. He knew all of the rules by heart, followed them close, and yet missed the point entirely. In fact, it almost cost him his life. When you turn the page from the final chapter of the gospel of John and flip over into the book of Acts and begin to read about his life, you are seeing the beginnings of what it means to move from a servant of Jesus to being his friend.

When you read the four gospels as a whole and find the different stories about Peter, you will notice a hard man. A man who puts a lot of expectations on others, but very little on himself. A man who points the finger at others, but is not willing to point it back at himself. A man who has all the answers, but really knows very little. In the end, the man we meet in the gospels is not a man who has experienced genuine forgiveness and love. For example, prior to when he denies Jesus those infamous three times, he believes he is going to stand firm next to his Savior and be unafraid of whatever may come. Most definitely, he will stand up to be counted as one of Jesus “servants”—no matter what the cost. But we all know what happens in that courtyard, don’t we? He fails Jesus miserably. At that moment in time, he was not a follower of Jesus at all, and his Friend was about to teach him a lesson like no other.

Again, Peter in the gospels is the perfect servant and disciple. Go and find a concordance and read all of the different instances in which you find Peter talked about in either the gospel of Mark, Matthew, Luke or John and in eighty percent of those passages, he will come out looking like a heel or worse. No doubt about it, Peter was devoted to Jesus tremendously. In comparison to the other disciples, he was more passionate about following Jesus than any other. He was the one who always had his hand raised first—I picture him like the first grader who is bouncing out of his seat, yelling, “Call on me, Jesus! Call on me, Jesus!” No arguing here, Peter was a very dedicated man, and yet there was also something missing. He had tremendous potential, but it was only potential nonetheless. Jesus had a lot to work with in Peter, but he also had a lot of work to do in him before he could send him out into the world.

And so with all of this, Peter had a couple significant marking points in his life, which thankfully turned everything around. They happened in an upper room, a courtyard and eventually, over a breakfast meal on the beach. But first, let’s go back to that story mentioned earlier in a previous post. As you will remember, at one point in Peter’s life, he emphatically told Jesus that he would always be at his side, through thick and thin. No matter what, even if it meant death, he would never deny knowing his Lord. He would stand with Jesus even if it cost him his life. Even if it meant being crucified right next to him on Golgotha, Peter was never going to fail Jesus. Peter remembered Jesus’ rule very well—“if you deny me before men, I will deny you before the Father as well.” (Matthew 10:33) In some ways, this was the one rule you should never break and if you broke it, you would be forever lost. Jesus never made such a strong statement about allegiance and if you broke this one, you were going to be sitting on the outside. Peter must have thought to himself, I can never break that one rule. Never! This was one tenet that Peter was never going to break. Or so he thought.

In that scene at the Last Supper, Jesus told Peter in stark and honest terms what was really going to go down—not only once, or twice, but on three separate occasions—Peter was going to act like he never knew Jesus at all. In that moment when Peter again comes back and demands that he will always be loyal you can picture Jesus rolling his eyes and shaking his head: Peter, Peter, Peter…how wrong you are. The stage is set and in that scene, Peter does two unbelievable things after Jesus challenges him. First, he has the audacity to talk back to Jesus, essentially telling him he had it all wrong. Can you imagine that? Telling the God of the universe that he is wrong?! On top of that, Peter also puts himself above all of the other disciples. He interrupts and equivocally states, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” He’s basically saying, these guys aren’t trustworthy, but I am. In both instances, he reveals his arrogance and pride. But we all know what happens—everyone knows the end of that story. Again, Peter totally fails and as usual, Jesus was right after all. It all went down just like Jesus said.

And then after everything happened as Jesus foretold concerning his death and resurrection, Peter could not be found. Jesus hangs out with Mary Magdalene, Cleopas and even the ever-doubting Thomas. Peter knew what he had done and perhaps he thought that it was all over for him. Peter knew full well Jesus’ words about the consequences of betraying him. I am sure he had heard of the news of Judas’ death and suicide. It was looking about as bleak for him as well. Did Peter perhaps have fleeting thoughts of taking his own life as well? Peter, in the back of his mind could see how Jesus was going to react to him—Peter, you know what I said and you know the rules and consequences. Now get away from me, because you failed me. This is exactly why Peter wasn’t very eager to see Jesus even though he had heard stories about his amazing return. If you really mull this over, Peter was no different than Judas—he was a traitor too. There was no good news in that story for Peter, because he knew what the outcome would be. It was all over for him. Isn’t that how the story ends? If you fail your friend, your friend fails you? Listen to how this section of the story ends: “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75) What a tremendously sad scene. On so many levels for Peter it was a very sad day indeed. Again, is this how the story ends?

In: Friend to Jesus
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