Is it lying if, when you say something that eventually proves to be false, you really meant it at the time? That is the question running through Peter’s head as he paces back and forth in the upper room that night. Just a few hours ago he and Jesus had sat next to each other at the table. He had fed him the bread. He had passed him the cup. There had been such calm and peace in the room then; that is until He mentioned the betrayal. When Judas got up and left their anger had burned against him. Surely Jesus would stop him; nothing could be worse than the treasonous act of a trusted friend. Obviously, that would be what they all remembered tonight.
He had tried to stop him, Peter had – but Jesus said to let him go. Something about it needing to happen – Peter couldn’t quite remember – his thoughts were racing and uncontrolled. What had happened next? Oh right, the washing of the feet. Jesus had literally washed their feet. Looking back, Peter wasn’t too proud of what he had said then;
“You can’t do that; I should wash your feet!”
Why did he always have to question everything? Why couldn’t he just shut his mouth and let things happen. Then came something he would NEVER forget. Jesus looked right at Him and said;
Matthew 26:31–35 (ESV) ~ Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Yes, he had said ALL, but His eyes were fixed right on Peter. And Peter had been the loudest and brashest of them when it came to saying he would never. There was no chance. Not after three whole years of following Him. Not after seeing miracles, and calming storms. Not after having walked on water. There was no way. The rest of them agreed. They had given up everything to follow Him, they would never desert him now.
Jesus had wanted to pray. so out further to Gethsemane they went. Sure they were tired, but Jesus had asked them to stand guard. He couldn’t even get that right. He had fallen asleep, just like the rest of them. Twice even. Why couldn’t he have just been more alert. Jesus woke them the second time, and His head seemed wet with blood. Peter remembered wondering – what was happening? Why was He so intense? Why hadn’t He warned them?
Because then, in a moment, like a flash, everything changed. Judas showed up, with those soldiers and their swords. A simple kiss and the fight was on. Peter being Peter, had stepped in it again, and chopped off some guy’s ear. Jesus rebuked him and did what only He could do – healed the man completely. And just like that, He was gone. Arrested. Taken away. And they all had run. Peter tried to follow as he said he would; and came to a fire outside where Jesus was facing Caiaphas the Chief Priest. He was plotting his next move when someone started asking questions, and EVERYTHING fell apart…
Matthew 26:69–75 (ESV) ~ Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Three times. THREE TIMES. Three times He had made Jesus a prophet, and himself a liar. Three times he had saved his own skin; while denying the Savior he said he loved. Three times he had been given the chance to undo each mistake he had made that night with a simple “yes, I know Him, and He is who He claims to be.” But all…three… times – he denied. Deny, deny, denied. Jesus had been right. He always was. And Peter had never wished more that He had been wrong. That blasted rooster; he’d kicked it as he ran. Tears flowing, streaming from his eyes – to the point where he could barely see. He ran, as if running from his past. As if fleeing from his failure. As if trying to outrun every mistake that he had ever made. He didn’t know where he was heading, and yet he ran.
And that’s how he had wound up here. In a room filled with leftovers and memories. Memories that now haunted him. He was alone; and the only person in the world more alone than him, was the One he had promised to protect.
A promise he had broken; if only just three times.