Peter hardly knew the battered, bruised and submissive Jesus.
The crowds who followed Jesus would hardly have recognized the
deceptive, cussing Peter. And where were all those friends when
Jesus needed them? Everyone seems out of character, except
the ones who ruled the night.


 

Peter sat outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came to him,
saying, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee." But he denied it
before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are saying."

When he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him
and
said to those who were there, "This fellow also was with
Jesus
of Nazareth." But again he denied with an oath, "I do
not know
the Man!"

A little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter,
"Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays
you."
Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not
know
the Man!"

Immediately a rooster crowed. [{Luke 22:61} And the Lord
turned
and looked at Peter. Then] Peter remembered the
word of Jesus
who had said, "Before the rooster crows, you
will deny Me three
times." So he went out and wept bitterly.

                                                     Matthew 26:69-75 NKJV, condensed


                                             Out of Character

Peter, while trying to remain quietly anonymous, was living a
nightmare. Everything he had given his life to these past three
years, was coming to naught. Blowing up right before his eyes,
going puff. The Jesus Peter had known was a man in complete
control, making his own decisions, manifesting divine authority.
That was the Messiah he had left his home and fishing business
to follow.

Before the night was over, Peter would see a different Jesus,
bound and led around by soldiers, standing before a panel of
human judges, choosing to submit to earthly authority, cheeks
dripping with spit, doing nothing to prevent the punishing
blows and insults!

Peter was looking at a Jesus he had never seen before. We can
only guess what Peter was feeling. Certainly he was powerless to
overturn the injustice of the situation. Being a man of action and
strong opinions, there must have been a lot of churning going
on inside of him. Probably also some fear of implicating himself,
and worry because Jesus had spoken on several occasions about
dying. He alone among the onlookers knew Jesus personally, yet
at the moment he was reluctant to acknowledge it.

Jesus had always been the one to call the shots. Now with Jesus
under a death sentence, Peter knew he wanted to do something
but he had no idea what that something could be. So when a
young servant girl studied his features and then intruded on
his space with the accusation that she had seen him with Jesus,
he declared he didn't know what she was talking about. Lying
made Peter uncomfortable. He moved away from that gal.
But the buzz followed him.

Soon someone else approached and announced to all within
hearing distance, "This man came in here with Jesus of Nazareth."
It was getting very annoying and somewhat scary. Peter just
wanted to be left alone, so he swore to it, "I do not know that
man."

After moving to a different location it soon became clear the
folks in the courtyard were not going to let him off so easily.
Several joined together to pounce on him. They could tell he
had come in from the country; his accent gave him away. When
they told Peter this, Peter let out a volley of loud cursing, as if
that would prove his point. It was a futile effort to convince
them otherwise. The helplessness, despair and anger of the
whole evening came out and no, he bleeping didn't know Jesus,
never did and never will!

Peter was trapped by the truth. The pressure pot boiled over
and he overreacted. As soon as it happened, the rooster crowed
and Jesus turned to look at him. Full of regrets, Peter forgot the
injustice taking place in the courtroom and his anger turned
inward. Immediately he fled to the darkness outside, where he
broke down and wept bitter tears for himself.

The people in the crowds who were familiar with Jesus would
not have recognized the disciple Peter in this episode. The Peter
they knew was strong and confident, fiercely loyal, and never far
from the side of his Teacher. If there was one person Jesus could
count on, it seemed like Peter was that one.

Like Peter, each of us has a public image that differs from what
we know ourselves to be. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German
pastor and theologian who died for his resistance to the Nazi
regime during WWII, wrestled with that dilemma in a prayer
published under the title, "Who am I?" In it he questioned if he
were one person today and another tomorrow! In public--calm,
cheerful, in command of the situation, a real winner. In private--
restless, struggling for breath, weary and empty at praying,
thinking and doing. He ended with this line: "They mock me,
these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest,
O God, I am thine."

Peter, after the agonizing ordeal and contrite weeping, arrived
at a similar statement of faith. We can be grateful to Peter, for
out of his pain comes the picture of what it means to be a child
of grace who is pardoned and reunited with his beloved Savior.

Because of the faithful witness of Peter and others who have
gone before us, we gain the assurance that we, too, can put
our trust in the unconditional love of God. Through faith we
rise and humbly declare, "O Lord, you know me inside and out,
my strengths and my weaknesses. And you know the deepest
desire of my heart is to be yours."

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: What is one probing question which you dislike being asked?

 

"Your speech betrays you!"   What does your speech reveal about you?
            What did Peter's choice of words in this text reveal about him?
            Why would Peter deny knowing Jesus and hide his role as a disciple?
Peter was derailed by a simple servant girl.
            Who or what derails you?

 

Peter wept bitterly.
            Why did he cry?
            How do you interpret his tears?
            When have you cried with remorse because of something you did?
            In what ways are tears beneficial?

 

Disloyalty and cowardice--Peter hated these things, yet he had just 
done them. 
            How does that make a person feel?
            In your own life where do you see evidence of both courage and 
                        cowardice?
            Explain how Peter could move beyond the past and get on with his life?

 

Peter's story reminds us that it is easy to express our beliefs when
we are surrounded by others who believe as we do, just as it can be
very difficult to express those same beliefs when in the presence
of people who would question or ridicule our faith.
            How good are you at acknowledging your faith when not in church?
            Describe a situation when you felt a little like Peter and you didn't
                       want others to know that you are a follower of Jesus.
            What was the reason you didn't want to talk about your beliefs?
            Do you, or should you, feel any regrets or shame when you don't
                       want others to know you are a Christian?
            If we are quiet when we should speak up, have we denied Jesus?

 

I am writing this page in February, 2009, during a grave worldwide
financial recession. Like many families, we look at our financial portfolio
and do not recognize it as our own! Valuations on years of savings
have gone puff. Cussing, denial, and regretful tears do nothing to
alleviate the situation. I feel akin to Peter, watching a disaster unfold
but unable to do anything to stop it.
            What did Peter learn from his years as a disciple that gives hope
            and encouragement to people sitting in "the courtyard of
            financial adversity?"

 

How comfortable are you with the thought that God knows you
inside and out?
            What is your answer to Pastor Bonhoeffer's question,
                        "Am I one person today and another person tomorrow?"

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