Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same (Matthew 26:34–35, esv).
We all know the gist of what Peter said, three times in a row, when he was accused the night of Jesus’ arrest about being one of His followers.
Yes, you are.
No, I’m not!
But like ourselves when we fail to be faithful to the Lord, our sin reveals much more about our hearts than the mere words we may say in the moment.
See if you can hear yourself in what could have been the underlying words of Peter’s three denials…
1) “It’s a one-time thing. It won’t happen again.” Peter never saw it coming. By the time a servant girl in the courtyard said she recognized his face, he’d already overestimated his ability to handle the pressure, sitting alone among the frenzied crowd. “Woman, I do not know him” (Luke 22:57), he instinctively said—with no one more surprised than himself that he’d said it. But because he trusted his own strength of character, and would continue to trust it for the rest of the night, he would crash and fail again and again, always thinking he’d do better the next time. If Peter had only reflected on Jesus’ warning from earlier in the day and realized the disloyalty he was all too capable of perpetrating, he could’ve taken the one big step of humility and caution that might have prevented the natural next step—the one that his weak but overconfident backbone was leading him toward.
2) “I can’t take the pressure! Give me a break!” The second person who challenged him—“You also are one of them”—received an even sharper answer than the first: “Man, I am not” (Luke 22:58). You hear in Peter’s voice almost a pleading for people to leave him alone. Man! They have no idea how hard it is to be him in this situation. He knows he can’t ask for their sympathy, but he wishes he could get someone’s sympathy. And so do we sometimes. But whenever you’re pleading for sympathy in a tempting situation rather than praying for victory, you’re almost certain to keep slipping and sliding into sin.
3) “I don’t answer to you. Why don’t you mind your own business?” Roughly an hour had passed before a third person picked up on his Galilean accent, connecting the dots between Peter and Jesus. But he shot back, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about” (Luke 22:60). He didn’t even want to hear the facts anymore. He was completely resistant to being held accountable for who he was and what he was doing. He was sticking to his secret, no matter how close anyone came to exposing the truth. Be careful of this in your own life—resisting what others are telling you about yourself—because building a barricade around your behavior to avoid accountability is tantamount to authoring your own epitaph.
Yes, we see what was behind these three remarkable downfalls of Peter—his overconfidence, his self-pity, his fear-induced defiance. But we know, too, that “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 22:60–62).
Never be afraid of discovering what’s beneath your sin. Just be sure, once you see it, that you look into the eyes of your Savior to receive both the grace and new growth He stands ready to give.
Lord God, thank You for never taking Your eyes off of me for one second. Thank You for not leaving me to wallow in my sin without learning from it and being able to repent of it. It’s Your faithfulness that allows me to see where I’m being overly confident, or overly sensitive to my own suffering, or overly protective of my privacy. Teach me to rely on Your power alone, to be reminded of Your suffering, and to trust in Your all-the-time goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.