The Characters of Easter: Simon Peter

Day 6 of 10 • This day’s reading


You can’t tell the Easter story without talking about Peter’s stunning denial. 

How could a devoted disciple suddenly turn on Jesus? To understand, I think we have to step into his sandals on that tragic early morning. The scenes of denial come toward the end of a long and emotionally draining week that began with great joy and promise. 

It would begin with an emotional high, with Jesus triumphantly entering the city on a donkey and being hailed by crowds of palm-branch-waving supporters as the King of the Jews. Jesus was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy of an unorthodox future king who would ride into Jerusalem, not in a chariot, but on a humble beast of burden. 

As the days wore on, there was a growing sense of danger. Whispers of plots by religious leaders, secret schemes to capture Jesus and the disciples. It must have frustrated Peter and the other disciples that Jesus seemed to do nothing to tamp down danger or to fight back. At times, Jesus seemed to exacerbate the division, chasing out the merchants and the grifters from the temple and predicting that Herod’s magnificent edifice, Israel’s source of national pride, would be unceremoniously destroyed in the not-so-distant future. 

It all climaxed, however, when Jesus and the disciples enjoyed a Passover in a room that Peter and John had secured. This had all of the elements of a typical Passover meal, except Jesus continued to talk of His own coming arrest and death at the hands of His enemies. How could a king rule, Peter must have wondered, when He seemed so resigned to the fate of capture? But Jesus continued and mentioned His leaving them and the sending of the Spirit of God, a prospect that made them sad and a little angry. 

Peter had left everything and had staked it all on the idea that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But how could the Messiah allow Himself to be captured and killed? Internally, Peter must have reassured himself that he wouldn’t let this happen. He’d fight and give his life in order to protect his Master. But Jesus didn’t seem to entertain Peter’s delusions. He somberly predicted that all the disciples would desert Him, and one would even betray Him. It was like He could see into Peter’s soul in a way Peter couldn’t see himself.