After the disciples deserted their Master in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter and John followed the mob that took Jesus. At the judgement hall, the priests recognized John as a well-known disciple of Jesus, and admitted him. Then, John spoke in favor of Peter, and gained an entrance for him also.
In the court, a fire was kindled. A company drew about the fire, and Peter sat with them. He did not wish to be recognized as a disciple of Jesus. By mingling with the crowd, he hoped to be taken as one who had brought Jesus to the hall.
Peter denied Jesus
A woman who kept the door noticed that Peter came in with John, and thought that he might be a disciple of Jesus. She was one of the servants of Caiaphas’ household. She said to Peter, “Art not thou also one of this Man’s disciples?” Peter was startled and confused. He pretended not to understand her; but she was persistent, and said to those around her that this man was with Jesus. Peter said angrily, “I am not” (John 18:17). This was the first denial, and immediately the cock crew.
The second and third denials
Attention was focused at Peter the second time, and he was again charged with being a follower of Jesus. He now proclaimed with an oath, “I do not know the Man.” Some time passed, and one of the servants of the high priest, being a near kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked Peter, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it” (Mark 14:70). At this Peter was enraged and he denied his Master with cursing and swearing (v. 71). Again, the cock crew. Peter heard it, then, he remembered the words of Jesus, “before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30).
Peter’s conscience was aroused. He remembered his promise just a few hours before, that he would go with his Lord to prison and to death. He remembered his sadness when the Savior told him in the upper room that he would deny his Lord three times that same night.
Peter remembered Jesus saying to him, “Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31, 32). He remembered with fear his own ingratitude. Unable longer to endure his guilt, he rushed out of the hall. And he recalled Jesus’ words, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Had Peter prayed, he would have not failed his test. With deep sorrow, Peter repented of his sin.
Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter
After the resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-19). And He said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15). Peter had once declared, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). But now he was humbled after his denial of Jesus. There is no confidence in himself that his love is greater than that of his brethren. And Jesus bade him, “Feed My lambs.”
This dialogue was repeated for the second time (v. 16) and third time (v. 17). Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty. Thus, before the gathered disciples, Jesus showed the depth of Peter’s repentance and conversion. Jesus showed them that Peter was now more prepared to be a shepherd to the flock. In this manner, Jesus gave Peter a chance to regain the trust of his brethren.
In His service,
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