What We Can Learn from Peter’s Failure

“’No!’ Peter insisted. ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will never deny you!’” (Matthew 26:35a NLT)

Have you ever made a promise or a statement of conviction that at the time you had 100% confidence you would keep? But afterwards life happens and everything you thought you’d do or be flies out the window and you’re left in a puddle of disgust, anger, sadness, and shame, the likes of which you’d never imagined. Peter can relate.

Peter was very self-confident, outspoken, rash, bold, and a natural leader. But on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, circumstances got the best of him. At first, when Judas arrived “with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs” Peter did what Peter often did – he reacted! When the men with Judas grabbed Jesus, Peter pulled his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave.

He may have been trying to go after the high priest, who knows, but he ended up hurting the person who was very likely the least threat to Jesus or anyone else – rash! Just swinging at anything in his path. Then reality set in and Peter and all the other disciples tucked tail and ran for their lives. But once Peter realized no one was chasing him, he followed Jesus at a distance, which led him to the high priest’s courtyard. That became the scene of Peter’s denial that he ever knew Jesus, not once, but three times.

Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him, but at that point it was incomprehensible to Peter that he would ever do such a thing. Have you ever done something you never dreamed you would do? I have, and it’s heartbreaking. Then the rooster crowed, and the Bible says: “Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know Me.’ And he went away, weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75 NLT)

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What would you have done in that circumstance? I would have wanted the earth to swallow me, never to be seen or heard from again. But it’s interesting that in Mark 16:7 the angel instructed the women to: “… go and tell His disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.”

What’s remarkable to me is there’s no indication in Scripture that anyone had to hunt for Peter. He was found with the other disciples. What’s my point? As much as Peter was hurting; as ashamed and angry at himself as he was; as heartbroken and distraught as he must have been; when the chips were down, he returned to the men with whom he’d pledged his life for the previous three years as they’d followed Jesus together.

What do we most often do? Isolate! Retreat! Hide! I believe there’s a very valuable lesson for us here. My hunch is that most of the time when tragedy strikes and we become pools of emotional jello, the reason we isolate is because we haven’t developed strong enough relationships with anyone to trust them enough with what we’re going through.

Peter sought healing with those who knew him best and loved him most. He went to his “small group!” Do you have a person or persons you can turn to in a time of crisis? If the most important person in your life dies, who will you turn to? I pray you have someone that immediately comes to mind, but if not, consider this.

Be certain your relationship with Jesus is secure and current. Hopefully, you’re not looking back to your baptism or a prayer you spoke thirty years ago and holding onto hope that what happened then is good enough for today. It very likely is not. Unless your relationship with Jesus is daily and vital, spend time with Him right now and make sure He’s your “very present help in your time of trouble.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Then, if you haven’t already, find a small group of men/women with whom you can grow and learn to trust with your life – literally. People who will be “closer than a brother/sister.” People to whom you can turn in the best of times and the worst of times. People who come immediately to mind when tragedy or crisis strikes.   

Peter, with all his faults, became Jesus’ “go-to” guy after the Resurrection. And there’s no record that Peter ever denied the Lord again. In fact, when he was martyred for his faith in Christ, he wanted to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified in the same way as his Master, Jesus.

We really do need each other.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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