“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Peter, along with his brother, Andrew, were the first disciples that Jesus called. The two of them had been followers of John the Baptist before and had been watching for the coming Messiah. Peter was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration and witnessed Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah. Then, when Peter requested that Jesus allow him to put up shelters for them, God responded with an amazing message.
God Speaks to Peter
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’” (Matthew 17:5).
Can you imagine being Peter in that moment? He spoke to his friend, Jesus…and then God, The Father, responded to him.
Peter witnessed countless miracles performed by Jesus, ate at His table, and had His feet washed by the Savior of the world. Jesus stayed in Peter’s home and healed his sick mother-in-law. He even watched Jesus walk on water. There’s no surprise that Peter was the first disciple who declared his belief that Jesus is, indeed, Christ.
So…how is a person who witnessed all of that, someone who lived life for several years with Jesus, someone who experienced the entire ministry of Christ, someone who had an authentic friendship with the Son of God, capable of denying Jesus in His darkest hours?
Yet, Peter did. Three times.
Jesus Knew… Peter Learned…
Jesus warned him what would happen. He told Peter along with the other disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them, that He would be taken from them, and that He would suffer. Our Jesus warned Peter, specifically what part He would play that night, as well as what His prayer was for him in the coming days.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you Peter, the rooster will not crow this day until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)
The disciples were confused. They didn’t understand what Jesus had been telling them about the sacrifice He would soon be making. His friends knew the Pharisees plotted against Him. They knew He had been threatened before. I’m sure the tension was high, and they were on guard.
They had been waiting for a King who would sit on the throne in Israel and free them from Roman rule. The Israelites, as a whole, thought their promised Messiah would establish an earthly kingdom during their lifetime and save them from their enemies. They didn’t fully comprehend that Jesus had come to save them from their own sin, and that their eternal life was His concern. A lot of Jesus’s words had been spoken in parables that He later had to explain to them. So, when Jesus began to talk to them about how he wouldn’t be with them much longer, they couldn’t fathom the truth of what was about to happen.
Later that night, the Savior of the world was arrested by the chief priests, officers of the temple, and the elders.
Then they seized Him and led him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galiliean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)
We could talk about how Peter must have felt in that moment when he realized what he had done. I’m sure it was horrible. I’m sure his guilt and shame only grew stronger in the following hours as he watched Jesus be abused and mocked, stand an unfair trial, and ultimately hung on the cross to die. When he heard that Judas Iscariot had killed himself out of guilt for his own betrayal of Jesus, I wonder what dark thoughts might have crossed Peter’s mind.
Our Own Betrayals
I imagine Peter felt ashamed. As the other disciples mourned the loss of their Lord, I’m sure he felt guilty for letting Jesus be taken and crucified without his support. He was probably embarrassed, and I can’t imagine the weight of his guilt.
Have you ever denied following Him?
Have you ever denied believing in Him?
Each time we intentionally sin, when we know the choice God would have us make and yet do something else instead, we are denying Jesus. When we fail to represent Him properly, we are denying Him. When we choose sinful addictions over Him, we are denying Him. (Yeah… I’m feeling pretty guilty at this moment too.)
Peter was afraid. He saw the torture and suffering the people were inflicting on Jesus, and he didn’t want to experience that pain. He saw the way they mocked and laughed at him, and he didn’t want to experience that humiliation. Peter denied knowing Jesus because he didn’t want the same harsh judgement, criticism, and treatment.
Have you ever hidden your relationship with Jesus to avoid criticism?
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
We all let Jesus down from time to time. We’ve all failed to follow Him, to represent Him righteously, to choose Him over our sin, and to stand up for Him when we’ve known we needed to. Peter is the perfect example of how unfortunately easy it can be to deny Christ.
Yet, Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. He prayed that when Peter turned again (or returned to Him), that he would strengthen the other disciples.
Jesus didn’t judge Peter. He didn’t yell at him. He didn’t act hurt or angry. Jesus simply told Peter what would happen, and prayed for him. Jesus forgave Peter long before Peter denied Him, and the rooster crowed.
And, Jesus forgives us.
Peter Was Redeemed and So Are We
Jesus knows we aren’t perfect people. He knows we’ll fail Him from time to time, but He loves us anyway. All He wants is for us to continue to turn back to Him, strengthen our brothers and sisters, and have faith.
After Jesus rose from the grave and was resurrected, He appeared to the disciples. I don’t know what the first meeting was like when Peter saw Jesus after his denial, but John paints a picture of what happened between Jesus and Peter during the third time they met after the resurrection.
Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of the disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. (John 21:2-8)
Jesus instructed Peter to bring some of the fish, and they ate breakfast together. John explains that none of the disciples asked Jesus who He was, because they knew it was Him. Then, something beautiful between Peter and Jesus happened.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)
And after saying this He said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)
Three times Peter denied Jesus to strangers, and three times Peter confessed his love for Jesus to His face. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him those three times. His denial was made in fear, in a moment of weakness, but his love was confessed in truth, in a moment of strength. With his confession, Jesus asked him to commit to caring for His church.
Jesus Chose Peter and Jesus Chooses You
Jesus loved Peter, despite Peter’s denial of Him, and you can rest assured that Jesus loves you despite any of the sins of your past, as well. Jesus forgave Peter, and he wants to forgive you. Nothing you have ever done is too hard for Jesus to forgive. You might have made a thousand mistakes, and you might still make a thousand more, but Jesus can forgive them all. Again, nothing is unforgivable. I believe His prayer for you is just the same as His prayer for Peter.
Have faith in Jesus; turn back to Him (over and over, as many times as it takes!) and strengthen those around you.
Who can you strengthen today?