While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’
But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.
Peter – one of the inner circle of disciples – had always been the one unafraid to speak out, unafraid to test his faith, and sure of his devotion to Jesus. Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat to walk on the water, only to falter when the reality of the situation hit him. Peter was the one who declared that Jesus was the Messiah, but then was rebuked for denying the road to the cross. That same evening, he had declared that he would never desert Jesus, but had fallen asleep when asked to watch while Jesus prayed. Peter embodies many of us, who hope to be faithful followers, but get it wrong more times than we might like to admit.
Yet Peter didn’t completely desert Jesus. He followed at a distance to the courtyard where he could be close to Jesus. We have no record that any of the other disciples were there.
But again, when challenged, his courage deserted him. To admit to being with Jesus endangered his own life, and Peter wasn’t ready for that. Having made the first denial, he couldn’t go back at the second and third challenges, and so Jesus’s prediction came true – before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.
And Peter knew that he had failed Jesus.
But while the scene here is of Peter’s devastation, it is not the end of the story, and we can know that Jesus still loved Peter, and Peter still loved Jesus. Peter was forgiven and became one of the most influential leaders of the early Church.
And so there is hope for us, as we try and follow Jesus and walk his way, only to wander off the right path. We too are forgiven, welcomed back into the arms of Jesus and called to follow God’s plan for us.
Father, you love each one of us beyond measure – each with our own characters, and each with our talents and flaws. As we walk the way, help us to stay on the right path, and to know your love and forgiveness when we stray. Amen
The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Advisor, Bristol area, and a member of Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell