Lent Reflection: Tuesday 31st March 2020
Bible Reading: John 18:25-27
Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the best attested facts in all of the gospel accounts. All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, include similar details of what happened.
And given that Mark’s gospel is primarily based on Peter’s eye-witness testimony, it is something that we can be assured actually happened.
But why include such a shameful story at all? Peter is one of the great leaders of the early church. So, surely this story asks great questions of his character and suitability, not just as a church leader, but as a follower of Jesus?
And yet, there is something so familiar, so human about this whole story.
One minute, Peter is so full of faith, so committed to Jesus and the cause, that he says that he will follow Jesus, even if it means death.
The next minute, Peter is stood in warming himself by the fire against the crisp spring evening air in Jerusalem. When he is asked again, ‘You aren’t one of his disciples, are you?’ Peter denies the accusation, ‘I am not.’
Then a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden when Jesus was arrested (again, potentially another reliable eyewitness source) asks Peter, ‘Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus?’
Again, Peter denies it. A third denial, just as Jesus had foreseen.
Immediately, the cock crowed. At that moment, Peter must have recalled Jesus telling him that he would deny him. The guilt must have been overwhelming.
To deny the one you love. To turn your back on them in moments of great stress. To not persevere.
To carry that guilt, maybe a guilt worse than that of Judas Iscariot. A betrayal of the one he loves.
Now Jesus is truly alone to walk the path set before Him. To the battle of the cross and the grave He must now go.
But what of Peter?
We have all been there. There is no doubt of that. We’ve all denied the ones we’ve loved, out of peer-pressure, out of fear of the consequences.
But Jesus remains faithful to Peter. After He is resurrected from the dead, Jesus is walking on the seashore as the disciples, unsure of what to do, return to their fishing boats.
Seeing Jesus on the shore, Peter dives into the sea and swims to Him.
And when He gets there, Peter finds Jesus cooking breakfast over a fire. Then Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’
By the third time, Peter is grieved again. He replies, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’
This beautiful moment overcomes Peter’s fears, his doubts, his denials. Jesus restores Peter and tells him to tend to His sheep, to look after those who will also come to follow Jesus.
What this stunning encounter tells us that there is nothing that can overcome the great love that God has for us. A love so great that it gives up everything for us.
A love that overcomes our uncertainties, our fear, our guilt. A love that is constantly drawing us back into the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father.
We thank you for your overwhelming love for us.
Lord Jesus, when we let you down, when we grieve ourselves because we don’t give ourselves to you completely, even in these moments, assure us of your forgiveness and of your love for us.
Draw us gently back, Lord, so that we might live lives full of courage before you.
We pray this in your mighty name,