Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
But he denied it before them all …
(Later:) Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (verses 69-70, 74-75)
Peter’s denial doesn’t come in one decisive moment, but rather as a series of knee-jerk reactions. The servant girl poses her question so quickly and unexpectedly that Peter gives a gut response, turning aside the immediate threat, hardly even noticing that he’s set feet firmly inside the camp of denial. His heart, pounding rapidly when the question ambushed him, calms now as he moves from the fire out into the entryway. The menace passes, but leaves behind a dull aching awareness that something is not quite right.
Meanwhile, Peter is accosted by another girl. She’s sure he looks familiar. She can’t contain herself. She speaks out, drawing in all those standing by. “He’s one of them – I’m sure of it,” she says. Again, without thinking, without even noticing, responding by default, Peter denies it.
Again, the racing heart. Again, the dull ache. Then relative peace – at least momentarily. But it doesn’t last. The crowd has taken notice. They’re listening to his speech. He doesn’t sound like a native of Jerusalem. He must be from Galilee, they surmise, and someone yells out: “Surely you’re one of that crowd, too – clearly you’re a Galilean. Your accent betrays you.”
Now Peter’s heart surges with dread. Faces are turning. Fear overwhelms. Before it’s too late he takes matters in hand. He makes a scene, cursing up and down, swearing he’d never even met the man. “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
At that moment, the rooster crows. It’s all just as Jesus had predicted. It’s all just as Peter had sworn would never, ever happen. Remorse crashes over him. He breaks down and weeps.
And so it all would have ended, were it not for the cross.
The cross spells sin forgiven, stains washed clean, the old gone and a new page begun. Because of the cross, the story is not over. Not for Peter, and not for us. Indeed Peter, forgiven and redeemed, went on to faithfully serve the Risen Lord.
His story tells us there’s more to the story for us, too.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the love and determination that took you to the cross, a love that provides forgiveness and new beginning, when all I could have expected was guilt and remorse, judgement and shame. Thank you for a saving love big enough to cover all my sin. Praise your name.
Reflect: Remember a time when you, like Peter, felt trapped by the weight of your own failure and sin. Remember, but don’t hang on to it. Place it all in Jesus’ hands again. Know afresh his forgiveness. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15).
Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash