In Part 1, I introduced the idea of someone who was very self-confident. And I was talking about Simon Peter—a man who was a fisherman, who followed Jesus, burned his bridges behind him as it were, and threw in his lot to follow him.
He was living with Jesus for three years and I guess he would have been able to see first-hand some of the marvellous things Jesus had done. Jesus called him Peter, which means ‘the rock’. He was very reliable but unfortunately he had a big mouth, he often spoke before he thought. But he was a real person, a real leader. And Jesus obviously chose him for his leadership abilities.
Now we come to Peter’s denial of Jesus as we read in Mark 14:66-72.
A woman recognises him in the courtyard—but he denies it and turns away. Later she sees him again and points him out to others standing by: “He is one of the Nazarene’s followers”. Once again Peter turns away but his accent betrays him. J.B. Phillips translates Mark 14:71: “But he started to curse and swear”. It would be like saying, God strike me dead if I’m lying. I tell you I don’t know the man you’re talking about. It was then the cock crowed.
That was a tragic moment. It was totally out of character for Peter, and irrational. He was probably very tired and stressed after a long difficult day. He had no sleep and was fatigued.
No wonder he went out and wept bitterly—he was ashamed of himself, shocked and deeply disappointed at his betrayal. This weeping has the meaning of deep intensity, sharpness, pain, severity. Like a deep sobbing. When Jesus needed him the most he let him down badly. It was too late to make amends. The robust, confident fisherman had become a broken man, especially as Luke makes mention of Jesus looking at him (Luke 22:61). That probably was the look of love that broke him and made him weep uncontrollably. The rock had turned into sand that night.
In translating the phrase ‘Jesus looked at him’, they use the Greek word ’emblepo’, which means to look at something directly and intently. Peter instinctively knew that Jesus knew what he had done. Did he remember Jesus’ words, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”? What about his statement, “Lord, I am ready to go both to prison and death” (Luke 22:33). But he had failed miserably—Peter had declared he would die for Jesus when in fact he needed Jesus to die for him.
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But Jesus did not forget Peter, who seems to have spent time after the crucifixion with the other disciples. He went to the tomb, as we read in Luke 24:1-12. Mark’s account says the angel in the tomb said to those who went to the tomb, “He is risen. He is not here. Go tell his disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7). Peter was not forgotten, he is remembered, and Jesus was wanting Peter’s wounds to be healed.
Luke writes about the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:28-34). Verse 34 says, “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Jesus must have made a special appearance to Peter on that resurrection day. What a wonderful meeting that must have been. I wonder what was said then—we don’t have that recorded in Scripture. Also, John records the lovely event when Jesus reinstates Peter (John 21:15-19). After Jesus returned to Heaven, Peter appeared to be in charge again, the church leader and spokesman for the apostles.
Peter’s self-confidence was his downfall. Has it not also been the same for many today? We need to be careful because the line between courage and cowardice can be very thin. Paul has some good advice. See 1 Corinthians 10:12.
Without a prayerful life, the Devil will attack us. We must depend on the Lord for strength.