It feels like drowning. The regret, and the shame. The idea that he had looked Him in the face and promised Him that he wasn’t going anywhere – and then when the rubber hit the road, he literally chickened out. His thoughts raced and overwhelmed him as he remembered every painstaking detail;
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”
~ Luke 22:54–61 (ESV)
“I do not know Him.” Those had been his words. They were burning in his heart and overwhelming his mind. How could he have been so weak? So little? So afraid?
“Man, I am not.” What wasn’t he? His friend? His follower? His rock? Just one day earlier – Jesus had told him that’s what he was – and he had basked in the glow. The idea that Jesus loved and trusted him enough, to build His church upon him, had given him more pride and confidence than he had ever felt before. But where had that pride gone? And where was the confidence now? Now those words pierced straight through his heart and he remembered the other thing Jesus had said to him.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter had said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
~ Luke 22:31–34 (ESV)
Ready for prison or for the grave. That’s what he had promised. Jesus had now experienced both – and what had Peter done? Denied him three times. That’s what he had done. The last one might have been the worst. Given the opportunity to redeem himself and finally do what he had declared he would – Peter’s words hung hollow in the air. “I do not know what you are talking about.”
Flat and utter denial. That’s what he had done. That’s who he was now. That would be his defining moment. When Jesus needed him most, he became a self-preserver, a coward and a liar. That is how he would be remembered. This is what his friends thought of him. There would be no church. He would be no rock. Jesus was dead after all. Truly, after ALL He had done for him, for all of them – they had let Him down. HE had let Him down. He had run away. And it had cost Him everything.
There are no more parades. There are no more promises. There is only an upper room where once He had predicted all of this – and no one had understood. And now, in that room sits a single solitary man. A man who has just lost his his best friend. A man who no longer has a purpose or a plan. A man so consumed with shame and regret that he is weeping, bawling, and sobbing in the most uncontrollable of ways. The tears flow freely from him, seemingly enough that they are filling up the room around him. They are surrounding him. They are overtaking him.
And it feels like drowning.