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.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
(Matthew 26:69-75 ESV)
Today we come to one of the most famous stories in the Bible. Jesus has been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and, as He predicted, His disciples fled. But Peter made His way to the home of the high priest where Jesus’ trial was taking place. He was sitting outside in the courtyard waiting to see the outcome.
Just a few hours earlier Peter vowed to die for Jesus and to never deny Him [Matthew 26:33, 35]. In this scene Peter’s confident boasts will be put to the test. And he will fail miserably. Three times Peter is accused of knowing Jesus. And three times he denies it.
Notice that each of Peter’s denials is stronger than the one before. At first he simply lies. The second time his lie is accompanied by an oath. Finally, he invokes a curse on himself (as proof he isn’t lying) swearing (firmly avowing) that he doesn’t know Jesus.
Peter, who was willing to take on 600 armed men single-handedly in the Garden of Gethsemane just a few minutes earlier, crumbled when questioned about his faith by harmless servant girls. At this point in his life Peter was a true believer in Jesus. But his faith was weak.
Peter knew who Jesus was [Matthew 16:16] but didn’t have enough faith in Him to be associated with Him. He realized there was a cost to being associated with Jesus and he wasn’t prepared to pay it.
Peter had too much self-confidence and neglected to pray [Matthew 26:33, 35, 40, 43]. So when a time of testing came, his weakness was revealed. In fact, it is precisely when we think we are strong that we need to be most wary of failure [1 Corinthians 10:12].
A lot of Christians are like Peter. We’re willing to do things for Jesus but we’re not willing to publicly discuss our faith with family and friends for fear of what they will think or say. We think that “doing” things proves we are spiritually strong. But when we deny our faith or change the subject when asked about our faith we prove we are spiritually weak.
We are called upon to do good things in Christ’s name [Matthew 5:16; Galatians 6:10 et. al]. But we are also called upon to give an answer for our faith. Interestingly, it was through Peter that God tells us this [1 Peter 3:15].
Christians do more charity work than anybody. And that is great. But deeds aren’t enough. We must speak about our faith to our friends and families no matter the risk or consequences. If we aren’t willing to put our faith on display to an unbelieving world then we really have no faith.
Moreover, when we hide our faith we are demonstrating a lack of love for others and indifference towards their eternity as it is only by hearing that others can come to believe in Jesus too [Romans 10:17].
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