Everyone knows the story about St Peter denying Jesus.
Jesus was inside the palace of Caiphas, being questioned after his arrest. Peter was waiting outside. Three people in the courtyard recognised Peter – two men and a maidservant. They accused him of being a follower of Jesus.
Peter vehemently denied the accusation – just as Jesus had predicted he would. When he realized what he had done, Peter was devastated.
What many people forget is that Peter, having failed Jesus at a crucial moment, made up for this failure many times over. He devoted the rest of his life to spreading the message and story of Jesus:
Peter denies Jesus
he was imprisoned not once but three times for his dogged persistence in preaching and teaching (see the Bible text for this story at Peter Escapes Prison)
he was, tradition tells us, finally put to death because of his unwavering love of Christ.
‘A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.’ (Luke 22:58-62)
St Peter in Prison, Rembrandt
Peter in Prison
‘It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod meant to bring him out for public trial after Passover.’ (Acts 12:1-4)
Have you ever done something you regretted, perhaps bitterly? As Peter did? Do you look back on some event and wish you could have the chance to do things differently? The truth is, you can’t.
But you can shape your future.
Don’t repeat your mistake, ever again.
Be like Peter. Make that mistake a turning point.
Recognise your weakness – Peter’s was physical and mental fear – and watch for it when it recurs – which it probably will.
When it does recur, see it for what it is, a weakness that you can control.
You may need help from others – don’t be too proud or too over-confident to ask.
You may need to do a lot of praying. But with Christ’s help, and for Christ, you can do it, just like Peter.
Once you spot the similarities, it is easy to identify with Peter:
He knew that Jesus was the Messiah
He believed this with all his heart
He tried to do the right thing: he meant to be a good man, and most of the time he succeeded
At crucial moments he failed to live up to his ideas
Jesus forgave him and loved him despite his failings.
Think about these things each day. It’s best if you can do this at a regular time.
Take courage, and use Peter as your model.
Step-by-step guide for Bible Reflection on the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus, and what it can teach us