The Characters of Easter: Simon Peter

Day 8 of 10 • This day’s reading


The same impulsive faith that led Peter to leap out of the boat and walk on water, to blurt out an affirmation of Jesus’ deity, was the same faith that kept Peter close when others fled. So Peter stands by a fire in the courtyard, probably a bit nervous. It’s dark, so maybe they don’t see him. Maybe he’s trying to be inconspicuous, but it’s impossible. A servant girl comes over and asks him, “You’re one of those with Jesus of Nazareth, right?” 

It could be that he’s trying to shush her so others don’t hear and his cover won’t be blown, so he can stick around. But he’s a fisherman, not a spy. He’s Peter, the Galilean with the thick accent. So Peter dashes out of there and sort of lingers by the entrance. 

One of the relatives of the servant whose ear was cut off by Peter says, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” At this point, Peter’s cover is totally blown. He’s exposed before his accusers and he panics. I mean, if your uncle’s ear gets cut off, you recognize the guy who raised that sword so awkwardly against him, right? So Peter resorts to the language of the sea, spitting out curses, his old life tumbling back into the foreground. And it’s in this moment of truth that the words Jesus spoke to him the night before echo back and pierce his soul. Another rooster crow. 

The gospels all record their versions of this story, but Luke, the meticulous journalist, records a particularly haunting detail: somehow Peter was within eyeshot of Jesus. “Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). You can just read the hurt and ache in those words. The eye contact, the look of anguish on Jesus’ face, the despair roiling now through Peter’s heart. This once-proud, self-assured young man was fully and unreservedly broken. Luke later records that he “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). 

Have you ever had a moment when you wept bitterly? I have. A genuine confrontation with the cross of Christ will do this, exposing our pride and self-sufficiency, the sin that blackens our souls. Whether you approach Jesus with a record of accomplishment and a life of charity or you shuffle forward with halting steps and a life of shame, Calvary will break you, and yet it will lift you up.