Daily Devotional - 6 August 2020
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell...Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:28,32-33).
Yesterday, we left Peter running for his life from the Garden of Gethsemane...in fact, all the disciples were running for their lives. These followers of Jesus had only hours earlier pledged their willingness to die for Him and unhesitatingly declared their allegiance to Him–never would they disown Him. Yet just a short while later they are running, scared witless. Why? Because in that moment they were entirely confused. These were brave men; these were loyal men; but they also found themselves disappointed and confused. The Messiah, the man they thought was going to lead them in military victory over the Romans, had submitted Himself to his captors without a fight! Everything they thought they knew about the future had come unanchored in the aftershock of Jesus’ arrest. This was simply Peter’s first taste of disappointment.
Before we’re too hard on the disciples, let’s take a closer look at what happens next. They may have run, but we know that at least some of them did not entirely abandon Him. In John’s gospel, we read that, “Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in” (John 18:15-16). Both John and Peter stayed close to Jesus during his trial before the high priest; we don’t know how John interacted with the others, but we know that Peter had jumped into self-preservation mode. Prior to being let into the courtyard, the woman who let him in asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?” And he answered with his first denial, “No, I am not” (18:17).
The gospel writers leave us somewhat confused concerning the exact events that took place over the course of that night–each emphasizing different details–but one thing is certain. By the end of the night, Peter has disowned Jesus not just once, but three times. As the rooster crows, signalling the beginning of a new day, Peter has proven Jesus’ words to be true, but which he had refused to believe, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me” (Matthew 26:34). It’s at this point that Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter and he is thunderstruck by the realization of what he has just done (Luke 22:61). As much as he may have felt confused and disappointed with God, he is overcome by his disappointment with himself. He could no longer face Jesus; he left weeping bitterly (22:62). The Bible doesn’t tell us where Peter spent the days between this moment and when the women came to tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead...we can only guess.
I suspect Peter spent the next days beating himself up, probably depressed, possibly even contemplating suicide. How these words of Jesus’ to the disciples must have haunted him, “everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). He was a broken man. Everything he thought he knew had been torn from him. Had the last three years all been a deception? How had he gotten things so badly wrong? What had he missed? Could he ever overcome such great a failure?
We really don’t know, but one thing we do. Early in the morning on the day after the Sabbath, the women traveled to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ body–but found it empty! When Jesus appeared and spoke to the women about telling the disciples, He singled Peter out. Jesus knew the struggle that Peter had endured over the course of the past days; word had probably gotten out about Peter’s denial. Jesus wanted it known that Peter was to be told, too, about His resurrection. Despite what had happened, and Peter’s overwhelming disappointment in himself, Jesus was not finished with him. He still had work for him to do. Peter had been thoroughly humbled–and he would soon be ready to lead The Way!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!