Peter denies knowing Jesus: walking with him, watching him heal, watching him love incredibly, watching him change everything. At the exact same time, just a little ways away, Jesus is professing his unwavering confidence in Peter. I’ve read and heard this passage of Peter denying Jesus a lot, but I never stopped to think that this passage isn’t about Peter at all. And if it isn’t about Peter, it isn’t really about us.
You may know the story from John 18:12-27 (click here to read it). Jesus is arrested and brought before the high priest. Peter and another disciple follow along behind and watch from a distance. In this scene, Peter is asked (3 different times!) if he is a disciple of Jesus’. Each time, Peter flatly denies anything to do with Jesus.
Meanwhile, in the courtyard near where Peter is hanging out, Jesus is being questioned. When asked about his teachings, Jesus replies: “Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said” (v. 21).
I’ve always focused on Peter in this passage. It is easy to do and can be really helpful. Peter is fully human and we are well aware of his humanity (i.e. the way he breaks all ties with Jesus under pressure). But this reading is not about Peter. And since it is not about Peter, it’s certainly not about us. As helpful as it can be, we don’t need to be reminded of all the ways we deny Jesus. I imagine if you are anything like me, you too are well aware of the myriad of ways you fall short.
This passage isn’t about ours or Peter’s lack of faith. Instead, this passage is yet another message of good news. This passage is about Jesus’ faithfulness and confidence in us.
Think about that for a minute… Christ, God, remains confident in US!
Even as we deny Jesus, Jesus remains faithful to the God he calls Father and to the world he came to save. Jesus remains faithful to us even as we cave under pressure and deny Jesus and his teaching.
Even as we deny him, Jesus remains confident in and in love with us. Jesus, who knows all things, knows our faith and lack of it. Jesus who stood in the next room over while he was being denied. Jesus who saw what lay before him and still went willingly.
Christ also knows that we will be emboldened by the power of his resurrection. Peter and all Jesus’ disciples will proclaim Jesus and his teaching. Jesus will give Peter the chance the next time Peter finds himself around a fire — after the resurrection (John 21:9). Three times Jesus will ask Simon Peter if he loves him, once for each of Peter’s denials (John 21:15-17). And Peter will answer, “I do.” And so will we.