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Return from Denial

Luke 22.54-62
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
This week as we continue our Lenten journey we are focused on Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter had just previously said to Jesus with all of the other disciples around, “I will never fall away… even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26.33,35). Now Peter finds himself being challenged with his prior remarks. For not only does Peter deny Jesus one time, but he ends up denying Him three different times in the span of about one hour.

Truly Peter was scared, and given the circumstances, why would he not be? He had just watched as soldiers took Jesus away, and I am sure he was wondering if he would be next. This is about the time the fight-or-flight mode kicks in, and it looks like Peter wants to flee, but he hasn’t left, at least not yet. He cares about Jesus and is truly concerned for Him. I am sure Peter’s mind was racing, causing him to revert back to former ways prior to meeting Jesus, and we as the reader get a first-hand glimpse into what was happening for Peter. But as soon as the rooster crowed Peter’s thoughts went flooding back to Jesus’ earlier words: “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26.34). And Luke says that Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22.62b).

Clearly the thought of denying Jesus not just once but three times was too much for Peter to handle. It broke his heart that he would deny Jesus. For here is a man who probably prided himself on being brave and standing up for Jesus, letting everyone know where he stood, until he was faced with the thought of losing his own life for Jesus’ sake. Peter was still in process; he still had a lot of growing left to do in Christ.

I wonder how many of us would react and respond the same way Peter did. Would we find ourselves denying Jesus if placed in a similar situation? Or would we stand and say, “yes, I am a follower of Jesus”? I recognize that Peter gets a bad rap for denying Jesus three times, but at least he had enough courage to show up. Where were the rest of the disciples? Obviously they were in hiding. I wonder if we might act like the other disciples and not even have enough courage to show up and see what is happening with Jesus. For that we have to say at least Peter had enough courage to show up. I honestly don’t know how I would react in that situation, and I pray that I never have to find out. But many Christians around the world today are persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that I would have enough courage and trust in Christ to stand and not deny my Lord and Savior. Clearly Jesus had grace on Peter ultimately forgiving him for how he reacted in the moment.

So as we continue to return this week, let us take a moment and reflect on Peter and how he denied Jesus. Perhaps ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. While denying Jesus in front of people is a big deal, what might be some more subtle ways that you deny Jesus on a daily basis? Go ahead and take five to ten minutes to ask the Holy Spirit where you may be denying Him from entering your life.

As we return from denial, let us be open to accepting what Jesus desires to say to us so that we can find freedom and hope in Christ Jesus today. I pray you have the courage and strength to let go of just one way that you are denying Jesus in your life today.

In Christ’s Service,
Cody Ragland
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