“While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said. But he denied it. ‘I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’ He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’ Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.”—Mark 14:66–72 (NIV)
In today’s passage, Peter fulfills the prophetic words Jesus spoke about him in Mark 14:28. He verbally denies Jesus three times, despite his assertion, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29 NIV).
Can you believe in only a few short hours, Peter went from “I will never” to calling down curses and declaring emphatically, “I don’t know the man” (Matthew 26:72 NIV)! But his three verbal denials are not where Peter’s denial of Christ began.
Ever since Jesus’ prophetic words about His disciples falling away, Peter made little compromises. What compromises? It started with his prideful assertion. Instead of “I would never,” he should have asked Jesus to help in his weakness. But it continued from there. As Matthew Henry explains, “Peter's denying Christ began by keeping at a distance from him. Those that are shy of godliness are far in the way to deny Christ.”
You can almost imagine Peter thinking beforehand: No way, that’ll never happen. I’ll never fall away like that. But fall he did. And as he heard the rooster and remembered the words of Jesus, “he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72 NIV). Luke 22:62 (NIV) goes further in telling us he went away and “wept bitterly.” The Greek word for bitterly describes a deep, heart wrenching, and miserable grief.
After His resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times—hardly a coincidence—and then proceeds to tell him to feed and tend to His sheep (John 21:15–19). It’s here that Jesus restored Peter and reaffirmed his calling. This empowered Peter to move forward in redemption, free from shame and guilt. This is a truly powerful truth for us all to walk in!
As Martin Luther once wrote: “It is a great comfort the Bible records many celebrated people falling into huge sins. Such errors are given to us so those who are troubled and desperate may find comfort, and those who are proud may be afraid. . . . No man has ever fallen so grievously that he could not have stood up again, and no one has such a sure footing that he cannot fall. If Peter fell, I too may fall. But if Peter stood up again, I also can!”
So often, we allow past failures, mistakes, and painful experiences to keep us from all God wants to do in and through us. We stay trapped in the past, stuck in our circumstances, unable to move—and more importantly, unable to move on. But there’s no failing too far that it’s beyond the reach of God’s grace; no mistake so grievous it disqualifies us from His forgiveness. And if He can forgive us and use our failures to bring glory to His name, then we should be able to rest in that forgiveness, stop looking backwards, and fix our eyes forward towards Jesus.
Pause: What can we learn from Peter’s failure? What encouragement does his restoration offer?
Practice: Do you know someone who seems so far from God’s grace? Someone you look at and almost see as a lost cause? They’re not! Pray for them! Pray the Lord would reveal Himself to them, draw them to Himself, and that they experience His redemption. If you feel like a lost cause, like one who has fallen hard and have disqualified yourself from His promises and grace, please know you’re not! If you have questions, need help, or just want someone to talk you through this process of repentance and reconciliation, please contact me at DanielS@CalvaryFTL.org.
Pray: Jesus, thank You that none of us are beyond Your grace and forgiveness. I pray now for those who are far from You. I pray You would draw people to Yourself. And I pray You would use my story and other believers, redeemed and restored sinners, to demonstrate Your power to save and Your loving kindness. Amen.