A sickening screech from the gut of the Rooster pierced the hour of reigning darkness as Peter continued sputtering curses while saying, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about! I do not know the man!” Immerging from the blurriness of Peter’s sight, he saw Jesus deliberately turn his direction. Christ’s eyes, glinting with blood and tears against the firelight, stared into the pit that was Peter’s soul, and Peter remembered, (Luke 22:60-61).
“You will all fall way,” Jesus said, sorrow filling his voice. “Even if all fall away, I will not,” Peter insisted (Mark 14:27,31). He remembered the pain filling Jesus’ features, the depth of emotion in his voice, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers…I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me,” (Luke 31-34).
Understanding flooded Peter’s mind as Christ’s gaze was interrupted by a backhanded slap from the high priest, Caiaphas. Spit followed, oozing down Jesus’ face. Peter slowly looked down at the palms of his hands that he had been warming by the fire among Jesus’ enemies. His fingers clinched inward, muscles tightening in his arms as he glared at them in disgust. “I am no better than Caiaphas.” He backed away from the warmth of the fire into the cold night air as a bitter remorseful groan escaped from his lips.
Today, as I read, I was able to experience Peter. I was able to feel the sorrow and loneliness of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as Peter, James, and John, his closest disciples, continually fell asleep during the moment of Jesus’ greatest agony. Then, Peter brandished a sword upon Judas’ betrayal, cutting off the ear of a servant. In this moment, I remembered how Christ had just petitioned to the Lord to take the cup of wrath from him but had submitted to the will of the Lord, and then we find that it is Peter who wants to fight to prevent God’s will from happening. Then Jesus commanded Peter to put his sword away saying, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”(John 18:11). Peter, along with the rest of the disciples fled as fear for their lives overpowered their earlier resolve to remain by their Rabbi’s side. And finally, I saw the full impact of Peter’s denial of Christ who had to endure the beatings utterly alone. I felt the shame Peter must have been overcome with as he realized what had occurred.
Peter, who had walked along the side of Jesus for three years, witnessed the miracles first-hand, and had sat under the canopy of Jesus’ teaching hearing the words spoken directly from the Savior’s voice, had denied Christ. God’s message came subtly to me as I pondered this. Christ continually told his disciples in the week of his crucifixion that it was better that he die so that the Counselor could come to them (John 16). Christ had not died yet, and Peter, though he had known Jesus in such a personal way, had not experienced the Holy Spirit’s power. This was to happen after Christ’s death and resurrection, after Christ’s spirit was released to the believers’ to dwell in their hearts and strengthen them. Sure enough, just as the Christ predicted, Peter was utterly changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the blood of Christ, as he became the person whom the early church budded, spreading like wild vines through the nations.
That is the power of the resurrection. That is the strength that we in the year 2012 can still draw from, for Christ died to set us free from our sin, the same sin that caused Peter’s denial. In that freedom, he gave us a gift, the Holy Spirit, to guide us and empower us to accomplish his will as a church body. I encourage you to tap into that power through prayer today.
Continue reading the gospels with me tomorrow, and see what God will reveal to you as we remember the death of our Lord the King on Good Friday.