Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Matthew 26:31)
The Easter Story, in and of itself, is a story of hope. In spite of the trials that Christians face, we always have hope because of what happened at Easter.
No one understood the hope that the cross offers more than the Apostle Peter. He was one of Christ’s most trusted disciples and often served as spokesman for the group. Yet, when Christ told his disciples that they would scatter like sheep at the first sign of trouble, Peter defiantly declared, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33)
We know that’s not what happened. The Bible records that Jesus told Peter, “I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Matthew 26:34)
Peter stayed true to form because as he again staked his claim of loyalty to Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35)
Peter turned his back on Christ just as Jesus had predicted. “To Peter’s credit,” as Herschel Hobbs points out, “it should be noted that all of the eleven joined in and said the same thing. Peter had plenty of company – and they all meant it at the time. But they were to learn that not merely physical but moral and spiritual courage is necessary to be true to Jesus.”
All four Gospels tell of Peter’s denials. They make no effort to excuse his failure. In fact, even Peter, when he remembered what Jesus had told him, wept bitterly. Peter was already repenting for his sin.
Peter truly loved Jesus and Jesus knew his heart. After his resurrection, Jesus made a special appearance to reassure him. Genuine repentance always brings divine forgiveness.
It’s hard to condemn Peter when we look at how we own up to the fact that we have denied Jesus, too. Herschel Hobbs asks, “How often do we move from professing loyalty and making efforts to follow Jesus to doing things that deny him? How often do we deny Jesus by the way we live, speak, or remain silent? Sometimes Christians go to extremes to disassociate themselves from Jesus. Perhaps we all need to join with Peter in bitter tears of repentance.”
The hope of Christian faith is played out in Peter’s life. You see, after Jesus forgave Peter, he also commissioned him to “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19) Isn’t it interesting that in these verses, it was Jesus who asked Peter three times if he loved him and told him three times to feed his sheep? I don’t think that was an accident.
The Bible tells us that Peter, in just a little more than seven weeks after he denied his Lord, preached one of the greatest sermons ever. Some of those present to hear that sermon were probably responsible for Jesus’ death. This time, Peter did not back down. With the courage and conviction that he had once promised, he said, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
Yes, Peter denied Jesus. But his story teaches us that failure does not have to be final and carry lifelong damage with it. Peter wept bitterly and Jesus later told him, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
Peter stood tall in the early church and certainly has done his part to strengthen fellow Christians. He also kept his promise to die with Jesus. He, too, was crucified. However, because he had denied Jesus, he did not feel worthy enough to be crucified upright, so he was crucified head down, at his own request.
Write to Mike Ruffin at email@example.com. His website is devotions.com.