2First United Methodist Church (Good) Friday noon
Franklin, NC 28734 April 19, 2019
Peter, at other times in the New Testament narrative, is the paragon of courage. He forsakes all—including a fishing business—to follow Jesus. When Jesus invited him to step out of the boat onto the water, He does it. He undertakes to rebuke Jesus after He mentioned His pending death—and, alas, receives Jesus’ stinging rebuke in turn. When the soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus, Peter swings into high action—cutting off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest (Jesus heals it, cf. Luke 22:51). He even ventures to go with John, after Jesus’ arrest, to the home of Annas, the one-time high priest and father-in-law to the current high priest. Sometimes Peter’s expressions of courage do not turn out ideally well, but he is a man of courage generally.
He is not the paragon of courage on this night, though. He sees His Lord arrested, and he assesses the danger to Jesus—and to himself. Therefore, while Jesus’ showed courage before Annas, Peter denies Him three times. He first denies Jesus upon his admittance to the courtyard at Annas’ house—and that at the apparently innocent query of the doorkeeping servant-girl. This evasion will make affirming Jesus harder, as we presently see. At the query of the group around the charcoal fire, amid good heat but low light on a cold night, Peter denies a second time. The danger rises exponentially at the query of Malchus’ relative—who, if he identifies Peter conclusively, may attempt to avenge his kinsman’s injury. All of these queries are emphatic, but this third one perhaps is especially so. Peter denies a third time, not especially emphatically here, but reported as such elsewhere—even to invocation of curse upon himself (Matthew 26:74). Then the rooster crows. Then, according to Luke, the Lord looks straight at him (Luke 22:61), and the Peter goes out and weeps bitterly (Luke 22:62).
Yet, grievous though this scene be, it had to be this way. It had to be this way for Peter to be broken and remade—of inestimable benefit to him, be it ever so painful to him. It had to be this way for Jesus to finish His atoning work—of inestimable benefit both to Peter and to us who believe, be it ever so painful to Him.