It was a fall that defies description or understanding. It was not hearsay or secondhand information. He had actually been there to hear the warning from the Lord Himself. “Deny Me and I will deny you.” Yet, he did the unthinkable and not just once but three times. How could he? Fear? Intimidation? Surely, he was disqualified for any future service in the work of an apostle relegated to be a mere footnote of forgotten history. He had violated a fundamental principle.
Jesus was not caught off guard. He warned him. Conditions had soured long before this moment as the storm clouds gathered on all sides. Religious leaders and world powers collaborated to carry out their plan. The odds were overwhelming from a human perspective. The Lord knew better. The eternal plan of redemption was unfolding, and the ultimate collision was on the horizon. The old fisherman was about to get swept away in the tidal wave that he was confident he could conquer.
It was misplaced confidence. Uncomfortable questions were fired at him. He had walked with Jesus. He was educated at the feet of the master teacher. He saw the lame walk, demons cast out and storms stilled. He had even taken a few steps on water, but nothing had prepared him for his own wobbly knees. He thought he could withstand any storm. He was wrong. The laboratory of life will surely expose our hidden weaknesses.
He failed. There is no way to sidestep that truth. He denied his relationship with Jesus with increasing volume. He sat at a distance with the enemy as they beat, mocked and spit on his Lord. Peter had wilted at the most critical time. Circumstances had led him to the point of surrender. Now, what? Where does he fit in now that he has shown that he has a breaking point and had greatly overestimated his own strength of commitment? Where, indeed?
We have the benefit of knowing the rest of his story. Jesus confronted him three times with the ultimate question (John 21:15-17), and three times he answered in the affirmative. Peter went on to preach one of the most famous sermons ever (Acts 2), to be an elder in the church and to write two books of the New Testament; impressive work for such a failure.
Everyone’s resume includes victories and defeats, successes and failures. Blood was shed to wash away the failures and defeats. Peter was right in the middle of the strategy to make that possible. It was a combination of insiders and outsiders, those who loved Jesus and those who hated Him. Some probably didn’t even know who He was. They joined forces to carry out God’s plan. Unimaginable grace in action crucifying the lamb of God to take away our sins; yours, mine and all the failures of the world. Peter still had a place. So, do you and I.