“And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.”Mark 14:72
When I think of Peter denying Christ in the public square, two words come to mind: fierce and unworthy. I think of the word “fierce” because Peter was always so energetic and enthusiastic when he spoke out for Christ. Then, in a moment of fearful, emotional panic Peter denied Christ not once but three times. I think of the word “unworthy” because of the emotional upheaval Peter must have endured in the weeks between his denial and restoration.
I have tried to put myself in Peter’s shoes. In reality, I have been in that position more times than I care to admit. You probably have to. You’re out in public and find yourself suddenly faced with drawing attention to yourself in a manner that would clearly identify you as a “believer.” Then without thinking, without hesitation, our behavior blends us in with the masses as we too become deniers of Christ. As subtle as the denial may be, it is a denial nonetheless. Can you relate?
No, that does not mean that you’ve relinquished your salvation. If you have placed your faith in Christ, it would take more than hiding in the heat of the moment to change your status in His heart. Is that what Peter was thinking? I can only imagine that in that moment of realization, Peter’s heart fell to the deepest depths of despair. Peter’s love for Jesus was great but now his disappointment in himself was even greater. Just a few hours earlier, Peter had been arguing with Jesus about just how strong his resolve was. He wanted Jesus to know just how committed he was to the cause. Peter probably didn’t even realize what had escaped his lips until the rooster crowed. Then the reality of not one, not two, but THREE denials set in and sent his heart to the depths of despair. Have you been there?
We can only imagine the unworthiness that Peter felt in that moment and in the days to come. It would be some time before he would see Jesus again. It would be even longer before Jesus had that very personal conversation on the shoreline. Some estimates suggest the time between Peter’s denial and restoration at four to five weeks. Can you imagine the weight of that burden on Peter’s shoulders? By his own words, Peter had turned his back on his best friend. John 21:15-19 tells us that after breakfast on the shoreline Jesus simply asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Of course, Peter eagerly responded in the affirmative. After the third question, he was actually somewhat grieved that Jesus would make him say it for the third time. Then Jesus once again affirmed His call to Peter, “Follow me.”
Fierce defense. Unworthiness. Peaks. Valleys. Courage. Fear. We’ve all experienced the range of emotion and feeling that comes with being a fierce defender of the gospel and also unworthiness when we know that we in no way deserve Christ’s love or forgiveness for hiding our faith in moments of weakness. As we approach this year’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection, may we be like Peter in the years following his restoration. May we humbly receive Christ’s forgiveness and boldly step out in faith knowing that others need to both see and hear our testimony. For too long we may have allowed emotion to drive our fears. We’ve huddled in the public square as Peter did and shied away from the opportunity we had to step out and share our faith. We cannot be fearful of being the light of Christ in the dark world. Just as Peter was bold in his remaining years, even facing extreme persecution, may we be as fierce as Peter.