Then they arrested him and marched him off to the High Priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance, and sat down among some people who had lighted a fire in the middle of the courtyard and were sitting round it. A maid-servant saw him sitting there in the firelight, peered into his face, and said “This man was with him too.”
But he denied it and said, “I don’t know him, girl!” A few minutes later someone else noticed Peter, and said, “You’re one of these men too.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”. Then about an hour later someone else insisted, “I am convinced this fellow was with him. Why, he is a Galilean!”
“Man,” returned Peter, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crew. The Lord turned his head and looked straight at Peter, and into his mind flashed the words that the Lord had said to him … “You will disown me three times before the cock crows today.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (JBP)
None of us has a clean sheet when it comes to loyalty to Jesus. Peter’s denial of him was pretty spectacular in that he had vowed not to do that very thing not long before. And he repeated his denials three times.
But in our own way we fail Jesus repeatedly. We promise to do this or that and fail to do this or that. We stay silent when we need to speak. We dabble in the things we know displease him. We sideline him when we want to go our own way and don’t want him to interfere.
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That is the bad news. The better news is that it wasn’t the end for Peter. Failure was not final for him or for us. The only raw material Jesus has to work with is very raw indeed! He can only work through and with those who fail. We are not written off.
And this narrative of the denial has Jesus looking at Peter. We are left to wonder what was in that look? We can’t believe it was rage and anger. We may think it is disappointment, or penetrating insight, or even perhaps sheer love.
When you and I fail, what look will Jesus have on his face? Our answer tells us a lot about what we think and believe about Jesus.