A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. (Luke 22:58)
Peter’s denial is described in all four gospels. The Biblical authors make no attempt to hide the fallibility of its greatest men. Here was Peter, the rock on which Jesus would build his church. Here was a man, who was so full of confidence, yet at a moment of crisis would deny Christ whom he served. What does the denial of Peter teach us?
First, the best of men are just men. Peter, without a doubt was the man for the job of building the church and leading it. He was bold, talented, a man of action and one who made things happen. Yet, the impulsive Peter had to be restrained on several occasions by Jesus. He had made a bold statement that even if others disowned him, he would never do the same. Making bold statements about the future is not a smart thing to do because if there is one characteristic of man’s life, it is change! Circumstances and people change and absolute promises are not easy to keep.
In a matter of minutes, Jesus went from being the king who rode into Jerusalem to a convict deserving death. The High priest and his team flexed their political muscles and condemned Jesus to death. He was no longer the healer and the savior, but a heretic, who had tampered with the traditional faith of the Jews. The fickleness of the masses was evident and popular tide quickly turned against him and the same town that welcomed him a few days previously was now asking for his death. In this scenario of rapidly changing circumstances, Peter was truly caught off guard. He was disheartened that Jesus was going to his death and he certainly didn’t want to follow suit. Denial was the only way out. He goes on to deny Christ thrice just as Jesus had predicted. Peter showed everyone at that moment that he was no superman, but just an ordinary person prone to weakness. Yet it is the weak that the Lord chooses to accomplish his purposes.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are. (1Corinthians 1:27,28)
Next, Peter’s denial shows us man’s tendency to conform to his surroundings. It is comfortable to conform. To follow Jesus when he was popular and to deny him when he was condemned is a demonstration of man’s tendency to conform. However Christian life cannot be one of conformity.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
At every point in a true Christian life, submission to God involves a dissociation from the pattern of the world. We are repeatedly called to shun the practices of the world and take on the nature of God as we find his will and obey. We are often called to reject the popular culture, mainstream ideas, common language and usual way of doing things when we set out to obey the Lord.
Lastly, denial occurs when there is uncertainty about the future. Peter didn’t want to die along with Jesus because for him this signaled the end. As the story of the resurrection unfolds, and Peter finds the undeniable hope of eternal life in Christ to characterize his existence, he would go on to lay everything on the line for Jesus, make history for the church and the world, fulfill his destiny and finally lay down his life for Christ-finding grace to do with gladness that which he ran away from during the denial preceding the cross.
- RESURRECTION OF JESUS