Chapter 18 of John contains the account of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Throughout the entire day, He never wavered in the least in knowing who He was or what He was about. In fact when the soldiers said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth and He answered “I Am He,” it was with such power and authority that the soldiers fell down.
In each and every encounter that day, Jesus was entirely confident in His identity: with the soldiers, with Caiaphas, and Annas – the religious authorities, and with Pilate – the highest governmental authority in the land. These men had the power to have Him set free, or to condemn Him to death; yet His complete confidence and knowledge of His own purpose never faltered as He answered their questions with wisdom and truth. Even Pilate had to admit “I find no guilt in him”!
There is a great contrast found in this passage as well: it is the account of Peter’s complete lack of faith and courage, and his denial three times of even knowing Jesus. This strong-willed, outspoken fisherman, who boldly told Jesus “I will never deny you,” totally lost his nerve when confronted by a servant girl, and he lied saying he didn’t even know who Jesus was. He had even taken out his sword in front of the soldiers who were there to arrest Jesus and cut off the ear of one of the men.
Yet just a few hours later he could not even admit knowing Jesus to the servants of the priests. The contrast between the courage of Jesus and the cowardice of Peter could not be more stark, or striking!
However, when you look elsewhere in the New Testament, Peter did not remain a coward. His courage returned in a huge way. Fast-forward from the day of Jesus’ arrest, just a few weeks to the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2. After the coming of the Holy Spirit on that day, Peter stood and preached a powerful message to the people of Jerusalem, boldly declaring that Jesus was the Messiah; that this one they had crucified had been raised from the dead, and He was both Lord and Christ. As a result of Peter’s sermon, three thousand people believed and were added to the church that day.
There are few stories in the Bible that show a greater change in a man’s character and behavior than the one above. So it obviously begs the question, what made the difference? At the time of his great denial of knowing Jesus, Peter had previously acknowledged that He was ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Yet when really put to the test, his backbone turned to jelly. But only a few weeks later the same man faced thousands of people, and proclaimed the complete truth of who Jesus is. What caused this complete transformation?
First of all, after his denial of even knowing Jesus, Peter realized what he had done and wept bitterly. Then he watched Jesus endure the greatest torture, humiliation, and death imaginable. Then he saw the empty tomb after Jesus had been raised from the dead, and when he finally came face to face with the resurrected Lord, he knew that he had been forgiven of his denial when Jesus told him to ‘feed my sheep’.
The complete transformation of Peter occurred on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled all the believers that were gathered in that room. Jesus had told them that they would “receive power, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they would be His witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
It was on this very day that the totally transformed Peter, stood like a rock, and boldly preached the complete truth about Jesus. It was not Peter’s own strength that was at work that day; it was the power of God through the Holy Spirit in Peter.
We are told very little about what Peter went through after his denial of Jesus, but I am quite sure he had to conclude that in his own strength he was a failure; that no matter how hard he tried he was not going to be all that Jesus wanted him to be. If Peter was ever going to be what Jesus had called him to be, he had to have a lot of help. And that help could only come from God, through His Spirit.
In the same way, our failures and losses can serve a very good purpose in our lives if we will let them. They can show us how much we need to surrender our own lives, our will, and our future to God’s control, and let the Holy Spirit fill us, guide us, and empower us to accomplish what God intends for us.
Now this is our challenge: which Peter are we going to be like? When the pressure is on, will we be the one who denies knowing Him, turn our back on opportunities to speak truth about Him, or give in to temptation to sin? Or will be like the Peter on Pentecost, who was filled with the Spirit and was willing to boldly speak the truth. Will we allow God to work in and through us and use us for His Glory?
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are so patient with us, that you continue to forgive us when we fail you. Please use our failures to teach us that we should not depend on our own strength, and that if we trust you and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, that you will accomplish what you want to do through our lives. Lord Jesus, help me to always glorify you in the way that I live my life. Amen!
Why do you think Peter was brave enough to use his sword in front of soldiers at Jesus’ arrest, but afraid to say he knew Jesus to a servant girl?
What lessons can we learn from Peter’s denial of