Matthew 26:75: And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Some people may not deny Jesus verbally, but in their behaviour they deny his Lordship. He diagnosed this problem long ago saying that many call him lord but do not do what he says (Luke 6:46).
That is “mouth allegiance” instead of heart allegiance. The bible says that “the fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1),” and this is shown in the way he speaks and lives his life, without regulation, following the evil dictates of his heart, refusing to be regulated by God’s counsel.
Jesus says that if we confess him before men he will confess us before his father in heaven (Matthew 10:32). That means if we identify with him he will identify with us, Paul says that all that was gain to him prior to meeting Christ, he regard them as dung compared to the excellency of knowing Christ, and be found in him without his own righteousness but that which is by faith in Jesus (Philippians 3).
Paul was a Christ exclusivist. As far as he was concerned, everything must be viewed from that prism. He said to the Corinthians church I want to know nothing in your midst except Christ and him crucified (1Corinthians 2:2).
He said: through the cross the world is crucified to him and him to the world (Galatians 6:14). The point is that having experienced the cross the world makes no meaning for him (his perception changed), and the world starts to see him as strange because of how the embrace of the cross has changed him, hence the persecution he faced, because he does not fit in and the message of the cross he preaches is in direct confrontation with the prevailing mindset of the people. It makes them uncomfortable.
Jesus, in one of the parables that he gave, spoke about the different kinds of heart with the seed of the word of God falling on them.
There is the stony ground on which the seed fell, and though it sprouted suddenly, it’s growth was cut short because there was no deep root in it and when the sun came up, which stands for persecution because of the word, it dries it up and the word did not become fruitful (Mark 4:1-20).
But the persecution faced by Paul did not have the same effect, which means that he has a deep root of devotion to Christ, and would not deny him no matter what. When he was making a defence of himself at a time of persecution, he said: I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). He had an encounter with Jesus and he could not say that he did not see what he saw. And he was faithful.
In the focus verse, we see Peter remorseful after denying Jesus three times. Making an observation of the 12 apostles before the arrest of Jesus, one would be forgiven to have thought that if anyone was going to deny Jesus, it will be Peter, but he did.
He had boasted: “I will never deny you (Mark 14:27-31, 66-72),” but fell apart when his confession was tested. Your confession will be tested, what you claim to believe will be tested. Just as the depth of your understanding of God’s word will be tested.
Paul said that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against different levels of spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10-12). In the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus whether he knew who he really was.
Paul said he who will be godly will be persecuted (2Timothy 3:12). Persecution comes in form of pressure to deny Christ, to deny the truth you have known. Eve was pressured by the devil to deny the truth of the word of God to her which had to do with not eating a particular tree, and she fell into the temptation (Genesis 3). In eating that fruit, she denied the word of God, which was the truth.
Peter denied Christ but he found repentance and restoration. Earlier Jesus had warned him that Satan has asked to sift you like a wheat, but he had prayed for him that his faith will fail not (Luke 21:31-31).
Jesus even spoke beforehand of the denial. This was to show that though Peter was going to mess up and mess up big time, Jesus was not surprised. Small sins, big sins, people mess up, and what Jesus calls for was repentance. We should try to justify our sins, but come clean so that we can receive blood cleansing (1John 2:9-11).
After Peter denied Jesus, he was overwhelmed at how he fell below the standard he once set for himself. He felt dejected. But Jesus later appeared to him to reaffirm his commitment to him, even calling him by name when he sent a woman to the apostles soon after he rose from the dead (Mark 16:17).
While the devil would like to impress on him that what he had done is really evil and that there is no way he can retrace his step, no way in which he can be again valuable to God, that he was the worst of the worst, but he believed the words of Jesus when he asked him later to feed his sheep, that he was still relevant (John 21:15-18). Jesus did not even mention the error.
As far as Jesus was concerned there are greater things ahead than mourning over the past that cannot be changed.
Peter fell down but he got back up again. He realised that the mercy of God gets refilled each rising of the sun, and there is no exhausting it throughout the day since it is eternal, coming from an eternal God. He looked into the eyes of Jesus and saw inexhaustible love, which as long as he was willing to receive it, God was willing to give it. He did not have to draw back and fall away like Judas did.
Denying Christ is not the unforgivable sin. We can come back, we can turn back. This same Peter who chicken-heartedly denied Jesus three times, stood before the Pharisees after his resurrection and ascension and said: we cannot yield to you in any way, we have to follow God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
He was fearless before the Pharisees, who had sometimes before organised the killing of Jesus, his master. Peter stood firm against the threat to his life. What a transformation!
That is the power of the grace of God. So, because you fell today does not mean you cannot rise. Prophet Micah said: do not rejoice over me my enemy because when I fall I will rise again; when I sit in darkness God’s light will shine on me (Micah 7:8).
Because you are down does not mean you are out. The bible says that to him that joined to the living there is hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4). The bible says that there is forgiveness with God, so that he can be feared. Of one woman who showered a lot of affection on Jesus, he said: the one who is forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47).
So God gives forgiveness to reap devotion and love from humanity. Rejection does not breed love, acceptance does. Jesus said: come to him all you that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He welcomes us to receive from him, and one thing we receive is forgiveness, without which we will not find rest, either in this life or in the one to come (Acts 13:38).