I fear too many times in my life I have said this with my actions and a version of it with my words. I fear too many times when the mockery has been loud, when the fear has been strong, and the uncertainty has been has been great, I have said something to this effect.
And that breaks my heart.
You see, two thousand years ago, Peter, the disciple of Jesus, was sitting in the temple court of Caiaphas watching the trial of his beloved teacher and dear friend Jesus. Earlier he had proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ- the Messiah long awaited by his people. He had seen miracles. He had a relationship with Jesus. He knew who Jesus was yet that night was different. The night began with Passover which any Jewish man and woman would be very accustomed to, but then Jesus spoke again of his nearing death. Peter even proclaimed that he would never betray him. No way would Peter believe that he would betray Jesus. Even at the arrest, Peter attacked one of the servants of Caiaphas the high priest.
But then Jesus was on trial and Peter stayed near the back of the crowd. Three separate times in the likely hours of this trial individuals accused Peter of knowing Jesus. They claimed to have seen him with Jesus. They claimed to recognize his accent from the same region of Jesus. Peter got to the point of being so angry that he cursed them and stated “I do not know that man” (Matthew 26:74). For three years, Peter was with Jesus and had total life change because of it. Because of Jesus. And here Peter knowingly betrayed him, not once but three times.
I can’t help but see myself in this story. I can’t help but see myself as Peter in so many ways. I have been a Christian for a long time. But I haven’t always served him well. In fact, there have been a few moments in my life where I knowingly did a version of what Peter did that night in the courtyard. There have been times where, despite knowing who Jesus has been in my life, I have denied knowing him. Sometimes it was because of temptation to do other things I knew Jesus wouldn’t be proud of (i.e. sin). Sometimes it was because the peer pressure of those around me and my desire to be liked by them meant more than loving my Jesus. Sometimes in anger and lack of understanding of things in my life, I have said this.
Luckily the story for Peter didn’t end in the courtyard. Luckily his story continued because later we see the redemption. I will explore that another time in another blog. For now, on Good Friday, the day that reminds us of the suffering of Jesus, I ask that you focus on this part of the story. We are all Peter in some way. We all have said “I do not know that man”. We have all lived our lives denying Jesus in some way, even if only temporary. Some of you still might. I can tell you this, when Peter eventually was redeemed, we know that he also grieved greatly his sin. And I can also tell you in my life, those moments where I denied Jesus with my life, my words, my actions, I have had to grieve and grieve greatly. Good Friday is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to remember that Jesus chose a cross and we have chosen denial. That he chose to love us despite knowing that there would be times when we would claim we didn’t know him. We cannot celebrate the resurrection of Jesus if we are not willing to grieve our sin and his suffering. Only then can we celebrate Sunday’s coming.