As we continue to examine the life of Peter, we see Peter continually fitting the profile of a man who on one hand is brazen, passionate, and unafraid to speak his mind. On the other hand, Peter also tends to speak before he understands what is going on, and makes passionate declarations that do not match his character. The greatest example of this was the night when Christ was betrayed.
Jesus had finally arrived in Jerusalem on the evening of the Passover celebration. Jesus wanted to strengthen his disciples before his trial and crucifixion. The Disciples did not know what was going to happen. Jesus shared his last teaching with the disciples knowing that Judas was about to betray him and hand him over to the Sanhedrin. They would all abandon Him. But in an assuring tone Jesus told the disciples that though great difficulty was about to happen, there was going to be hope afterward. Peter in typical fashion expressed his love for Jesus and declared that though others may leave Jesus, he never would leave him. In fact, Peter was willing to die for Christ.
To Peter’s surprise, Jesus tells Peter that Peter will not only abandon Jesus, but will also deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. But Jesus spoke a word of comfort to him even before Peter would understand what it meant. “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” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV).
At the Garden of Gethsemane, instead of seeking for spiritual empowerment, Peter along with the Disciples fell asleep. But as Jesus was getting arrested, Peter pulled out a sword and tried to attack a servant, but only succeeded in slicing off the poor servant’s ear. (Jesus healed it.) While most of the disciples ran off, Peter followed, lingering from a distance.
The key moment however was when Peter was in the courtyard wher e Jesus was being put on trial. Peter was with a group of people who were trying to warm themselves by a fire. One of the servant girls inquired if Peter was with Jesus. Peter immediately denied it. Then another recognized him in the garden. Another denial. A third called Peter out on his Galilean accent. By the third claim, Peter called down curses and adamantly denied even knowing him. At which point a rooster crowed nearby and Peter remembered Jesus’ words. All Peter could do was rush from that scene and weep sad and bitter tears.
At this point Peter was face to face with his failure. His failure was called out on him and he knew the truth. Peter was not only upset that he had failed Jesus, but that Peter was brokenhearted to know that he was no t strong enough to overcome his fear of people. Peter could hide and even trick himself into believing he was a good man, a strong man. But in a moment of a real test, Peter came face to face with his weakness.
What makes Peter’s testimony so powerful was not that it was just an emotional story, but that it embodies the gospel, the main message of Christianity. To a certain extent Peter was embodying the failure of all of us. It was a failure of loyalty, fealty, and love to God. We often are brazen in our declarations about God. We sing songs about how much we love Jesus and would be willing to lay our lives down for Him. And yet how often are we cowed by fear of what others would think of us? How many of us are trapped by our addictions to comfort and entertainment? How many of us hold higher views of ourselves than we would like to admit? How many of us refuse to hear what our family members are saying about us?
The message of Christianity is not a message of flattery. It puts us in an honest light. On one hand, there are moments of grace and triumph. But even in our best moments, there are signs of brokenness. But the gospel reminds us that in our brokenness we find hope. This hope is not found in ourselves, but in someone outside of us. Christ has come to do what we were too weak to do ourselves. Jesus displayed full loyalty to the Father’s will. He never wavered – not even to the point of death on the cross.
It is this same Jesus who would restore Peter after His resurrection. Jesus not only restores us, but does what we could not. In our weakness, let us turn to Jesus. When we come face to face with our failures, let us embrace what Christ has done for us when we were too weak. Let us look to Jesus and continue to resist sin and temptation in our lives through His power and His strength.