And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Today we will look at more reasons why Peter fell.
2. Peter looked down on the other disciples. Peter would probably have denied that he looked down on the others. He would probably have said, “We are all in this together, boys. We are all only ‘unprofitable servants’ at best. Jesus said so, didn’t he” But deep in his heart Peter thought he was the most upright, the most perceptive, and the most courageous one. That is why he responded to Jesus’ warning about the pending failure of the other disciples as he did. Jesus had told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me” But Peter answered, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (v. 33). He meant that he could see the others failing; they were weak, after all. But he could not imagine that he would do the same. Peter actually looked down on the others and imagined himself to be stronger and more faithful.
He was not, of course! And neither are we. It is easy for us to look at other Christians, find some point at which we can judge ourselves to be superior and pat ourselves on the back. But we are not stronger, and there is no sin that any other believer has committed that we are not capable of committing in the same circumstances. God does not look at us and find one of us superior to another. He looks at us all, sees “how we are formed” and “remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
3. Peter had an inflated opinion of himself. This goes along with his previous error, for the only reason we look down on others is if we think we are somehow better or stronger than they are. “Others may fall away, but I will never fall away! Not me, not Peter.” But Peter did fall away. He was not as strong as he thought he was. In fact, he was actually cowardly and very weak, and his failure was worse even than that of the other disciples who fled at the time of the arrest but did not actually deny Jesus—and that before a mere maid.
4. Peter failed to pray. True, it was the middle of the night, hours after the Sun had gone down. It had been a hard day, and prayer is difficult especially when we are tired. But Jesus would have been tired too. We know that he got tired, so tired that on one occasion he fell asleep in the stern of a boat that was rocking wildly in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Besides, Jesus has urged the disciples to pray. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” he said (Matthew 26:41). Peter had been told to pray! But he did not! He fell asleep like the others, did not receive the strength through prayer that Jesus did, and then denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest before mere servants.
How many of our failures do you think come from our personal failure to pray? Paul told the Thessalonians to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). A whole verse in the Bible is given to just those two words. But do we? Most of us do not pray more than just a few minutes daily, if that, not to mention continually and in every circumstance of life.
Much of Jesus’ teaching was about prayer and the bottom line of his teaching was usually nothing at all mysterious or esoteric but merely that we need to pray. He told about a man who was visited at night by a friend. The man had nothing to give his friend to eat, but he went to a neighbor who lived next door and asked for three loaves of bread. And the neighbor gave it! Not merely because he was his friend, said Jesus, but because of his boldness in asking. Jesus then encouraged us to ask of God in the same manner. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9,10). The only reason we do not pray is that we are far from God and do not believe that he actually likes to hear our prayers and answer them.
5. Peter thought he could be safe in bad company. For that is where he was when he made his way into the courtyard of the high priest and warmed himself by the fire of those who had arrested Jesus. These were not Jesus’ friends. On the contrary, they were his sworn enemies, and there was nothing in them that would encourage Peter to remain faithful to his Lord.