In this week’s study we have seen what an unlikely person Peter was to be used by Jesus in such a great way. This culminates in Peter’s reaction at the arrest of Jesus.
3. Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus. Later in his life Peter denied the Lord. Again Peter was feeling high on himself. It was the final week of Christ’s earthly life. His enemies were gathered. Storm clouds were settling over Jerusalem. Everyone knew that it was dangerous for Jesus to be anywhere near Jerusalem. Yet Jesus proceeded as if everything was under control, which it was. Peter stepped forward, saying in effect, “I don’t know if these other disciples can be counted on. You’ve said that everybody is going to abandon you, and they probably will. But there is one thing I want you to know, Jesus. I am never going to do that. I am going to stick with you to the end, even to death, if that’s what’s coming.”
He really thought he was! When they came to arrest Jesus in the garden, it was Peter who pulled out a sword. He was ready to fight. They could have killed Peter at that moment because he was serious about not abandoning Jesus. In fact, when they arrested Jesus, Peter still tried to do the best thing he knew to do. He followed a long way off.
But it was while he was separated from Jesus, waiting in the courtyard of the High Priest, that the servants began to ask, “Weren’t you with him?”
Peter, who was frightened by this time, said, “Not me.”
They persisted, “You must be one of his disciples; you have a Galilean accent.”
He denied Jesus again.
They kept at him, and finally he denied his Lord a third time, even with “curses” (Mark 14:66-72). That was Peter.
Peter wept when he realized what he had done, but he did not fall away. And the reason he did not fall away is that Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).
Jesus was saying that Satan was going to sift Peter the way a farmer sifted wheat at threshing time. A farmer would put it on a threshing floor, run over it with something heavy to separate the wheat from the chaff, then throw it up in the air where the wind would blow the chaff away and allow the grain to settle down so it could then be gathered up. Jesus was telling Peter that Satan wanted to blow on him and blow him away, believing that he was nothing but chaff. “If you give me a chance to blow on him, Peter will be gone,” Satan said. Peter was chaff, of course, except for the grain Jesus had put in him. But because Jesus prayed for him, Peter was actually strengthened by his failure.
4. His race to the empty tomb. At the time of the resurrection, when most of the disciples were not even in Jerusalem, having scattered back over the Mount of Olives to Bethany where they had spent most of their time that week, Peter and John were in the city. So on Easter morning, when word came from the women that the tomb was empty, it was Peter and John who rushed to the tomb—John getting there first, but Peter rushing in and being the first to see fully that the tomb was empty.
5. The recommissioning of Peter. Then there was the moment when Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee. They had been told to go there, and they had. But Peter was restless. He had taken the others out fishing, and it was while he was fishing that Jesus appeared to them, calling from the shore. Peter had denied the Lord three times. Now Jesus used the occasion to recommission him three times. “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” He asked.
Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Peter may have said many foolish things in his day, and boasted of a strength he didn’t have. But the one thing that was sublimely true of Peter is that he had come to love Jesus. If he loved Him before, which he did, he certainly loved Him even more now after the Lord’s death and resurrection. Certainly the Lord knew that Peter loved Him.
Still Jesus repeated His question: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
The Lord repeated it a third time: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
At this point we are told that Peter was hurt, because Jesus had asked him the question not once but three times. He answered again, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said the same as He had after each of Peter’s three answers: “Feed My sheep,” and later, “You must follow me” (John 21:15-22). This is what Peter was doing in the chapter we are studying: he was following Jesus. He was doing exactly what Jesus had been doing, serving in the same way, preaching the same message, demonstrating the same character. The same Spirit was working in Peter as had worked in Jesus Christ.