“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (NIV) Matthew 26:34-35, 26:74-75
What do you do when you fail a friend? You go to him or her to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and restore the relationship. But, what if for various reasons you can’t go to that friend? It leaves an incredible void in your soul when you are unable to make things right. I believe that that is how Peter felt after he had denied Christ three times.
Peter had confidently declared his allegiance to Jesus before He went to the cross. Yet, when the chips were down, Peter denied Him 3 times. His reaction, Peter wept bitterly. He knew he had failed the One that had been a Friend like no other. But, Jesus was dead. . .Peter saw no hope in ever being able to apologize to Him. Can you imagine the remorse that Peter lived with for 3 days as he relived his denial of Christ. But then, the impossible happened. . .Jesus arose from the dead! Peter responds to the news by running to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty. Had he been hopeful that he could finally apologize to Jesus? Did he want to be reassured that Jesus hadn’t given up on him?
Jesus took the initiative to go to Peter. “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5). We can only surmise the gist of His conversation, but I believe that when Peter looked into his Savior’s eyes he saw forgiveness, mercy, grace and love. Later, the risen Lord appeared to Peter and gave him a special commission: “Tend My Lambs. . .shepherd My sheep. . .and tend My sheep” (John 21:1-17). Jesus re-established Peter’s role of leadership.
Peter became a transformed man. He quickly became the leader and spokesman for the early disciples. His name heads every list of the Twelve in the New Testament. His preaching in the early days of the church (Acts 1-10) shows his great ability. The first 11 chapters of Acts revolve around the activity of Peter. He was busy. . . Peter was the spokesman at Pentecost. . .he healed the lame man at the temple. . .he defied the Sanhedrin, refusing to be silent about Jesus. . .he presided over the grim task of dealing with Annanias and Sapphira. . .and he dealt with the deceit of Simon the magician. Peter was the one chosen to reach out to Cornelius, a Gentile, after God revealed to him that the gospel would be extended to Jew and Gentile alike. Peter played a key role at the Council of Jerusalem which decided in favor of granting church membership to Gentiles. Not bad for one who denied Christ.
Peter failed Jesus, but Jesus never failed Peter. Jesus prayed for Peter when he is weak and He prays for us. Jesus picked Peter up when he was down and He picks us up. Jesus forgave Peter when he failed and He forgives us. Jesus healed Peter’s painful memory of denial and He heals us. Jesus believed in Peter and He believes in us. Jesus died for Peter and died for us. Jesus loved Peter and loves us. Jesus is our faithful Friend who sticks closer to us than a brother.