Peter’s Denial: A Lent Reflection by Rina Carbol
“Will you tread the way I trod? Will you drink of my cup?”
We hear these questions from Jesus and we fiercely reply that we will! Like Peter we declare, “Even if I have to die with you, I will NEVER disown you.” (Matthew 26:35)
But we know from scripture that Peter does indeed deny Christ exactly as Jesus said he would:
“Just as he (Peter) 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 3 times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:54-62).
Peter was a disciple of Jesus. He walked with him daily and was in the very inner circle of the King of kings! How, under these circumstances, could he deny his savior? Having witnessed the power of God in so many miracles, how could he turn his face away?
Fear. Peter was afraid. Afraid of being tortured and condemned for his association with Jesus. Afraid of being mocked and ridiculed for following such a fool as this…one who calls himself the son of God and yet now finds himself a captive.
Doubt. Perhaps Peter allowed the words of the enemy, as he heard spoken through Jesus’ captors, to embed doubt in his mind…‘if this is the living God, why does he not free himself?’ The fact that we see this story in scripture is indicative of just how merciful God is toward us. Peter is frankly displayed in all his humanity. The essence of this depiction is that Peter, in his moment of revelation when Jesus looks directly at him, becomes broken-hearted as he fully understands what he has done and in his shame weeps bitterly. In that moment, any pride that Peter carried in his heart was stripped away.
I believe he realized, perhaps for the very first time, that he was no better than even Judas. The mercy displayed is this: When we hit that moment of conviction; when we know we have sinned, and the grief we feel in remorse brings us to our knees, this is where genuine humility comes from. Kneeling naked and honest before our savior, through bitter tears we cry out that we are nothing, that we don’t deserve to be called friend, Jesus offers forgiveness in exchange for our betrayal. From here the Lord exalts us!
“Peter was not changed in a flash from simple fisherman to a great leader and teacher, but through the very time of his faithlessness- through the experience of denial- God was making him all that he should be. Peter was an impetuous spokesman, ready to lead other disciples, but he could never have been the power he was had he not learned his weakness. No man can save unless he understands the sinner. He who has tested God’s forgiveness in his moment of abject remorse, only he can best speak of salvation.”
Fulfilling the command to “love one another” is birthed out of sin, repentance and forgiveness…where we awaken to the knowledge that we walk alongside others as equals...all of us having fallen so short of the glory of God.