Even if all fall away – I will not! (Mk. 14:29)
Peter’s own words echoed in his thoughts – a type of orchestral accompaniment to the crackling of the courtyard fire. He rubs his hands together. It was cold, and it was late. But he had to be here. He said that he would.
Yes – hours ago he had fled.
Yes – hours ago he had run away.
But there were swords.
There were clubs.
There were torches.
Those men were ready to kill them all!
That’s why he ran.
But…it was just a momentary thing. He was surprised that’s all. Now he was in it for the long haul. Now he would stay put. Now he would be at Jesus’ side – no matter what happens.
TAP, TAP, TAP
Peter turned in a fright – fists up, ready to fight. “Who are you?” His eyes were at 6-foot level – expecting a big, muscular, tattooed Roman killing machine.
Instead, he had to look down.
It was a teenage girl. 13? 14? She was a servant in this courtyard. Carrying nothing more than a few towels that were folded nicely and needed in the priests’ courtroom for tomorrow morning.
“Excuse me sir…You…you also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” (v.67)
Peter’s mind started racing. “Tell her that yes you are. Tell her that you are his disciple. Tell her what you told Jesus that you’ll stand with him until the end. Tell her that…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (v.68)
The girl looked him up and down one more time. Furled her brow and shrugged before she walked away.
Phew! That was close. She could have told soldiers and I could be on death trial too…but no, no, no! That was wrong. That’s not what I wanted to do. That’s not what I wanted to say. That’s not what I told Jesus I would do.
Peter shook his head as he backed away from the fire. He moved to an archway where it was darker. He could regroup. He could relax. He could – hide his face from being recognized again.
A few minutes later the same servant girl walked by again. She walked past…and then backtracked to tell a few other servants. “This fellow is one of them...I’m sure of it.” (v. 69)
Yep! She’s right. I just have to tell the truth. I just have to stand up for my Savior. I just have to do what I’d said – it’s my chance to make things right. It’s my chance to say “YES!” To say “Yes, I know him! Yes, I follow him! Yes, I am with him!”
After a moment of pumping himself up, Peter interrupted their conversation:
“No, I don’t know him. No, I don’t follow him. No, I am not with this Jesus guy.”
O-kay…the girl replied and moved along with her friends. Peter retreated to the corner. She could have ruined everything. She could have gotten me killed. Why does she care whom I am with anyways?
Because you’re with someone incredible!
You’re with a man who makes the blind see.
You’re with a man who makes the deaf hear.
You’re with a man who healed your own mother-in-law!
You’re with a man who helped you walk on water.
You’re with the man you identified as the Messiah.
Stop disowning him. Start owning him!
Meanwhile, Peter’s inner dialogue was interrupted. The people who had overheard the servant girl’s accusations were whispering amongst themselves:
I think he is.
I think I saw him at the palm celebration earlier this week.
Yeah – and he’s got an accent.
A Galilean one.
Like – one who would follow Jesus of Galilee.
Peter turned his face around and pretended to be fiddling with a mark on the stone wall.
“Excuse me, sir. But we think the girl was right. Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (v.70b)
Peter took a deep breath.
This was it. This was his chance. This was his chance for redemption. A chance to stand by the man who stood by him.
Because Jesus never denied him. Not before he knew him – when he was a cold-hearted sinner – a foul mouthed, lust filled, apathetic about religion fishermen – Jesus didn’t disown him, but owned him.
And when he messed up, when he said stupid things, when he spoke out of turn and…sinned.
Jesus didn’t leave him.
He called him his own.
He called him his disciple.
He called him – his brother.
Now it was time to call Jesus – “his”.
Peter took a deep breath and spoke…
“In the name of heaven above, I swear to you as God is my witness that I don’t know this man you’re talking about! Leave me alone. I don’t know him. I’m not his disciple. I’m not his brother. I’m not a part of his followers. I know nothing about him! For all I know and care – he’s a criminal and he deserves the death sentence that he’s gonna get. Just leave me alone.” (v.71)
Cock-a-doodle-doo! --- Peter’s soliloquy was interrupted by a barnyard alarm clock.
And instantly, he remembered Jesus’ prediction: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” (v.72)
And the crowd – backed up. “Okay. Okay dude. Whatever you say.”
Then, they left him.
And Peter was alone.
Alone…with his thoughts.
Alone…with his guilt.
Alone…just like he said.
And he broke down and wept. (v.72)
2. The Lesson
There may not be in a story in the Bible that is more human.
That is more unimpressive.
That is more…
Because I love Jesus!
I love that he’s my Savior.
I love that he’s my God.
I love that he died on the cross for me…
And I here in worship and in front of all of you, I promise I will love him, always stand for him and never deny him.
Away from worship.
Away from a crowd of Christians.
In the real world.
I see them coming.
Not torches and swords.
Angry commenters on blogs.
Disapproving looks at Starbucks.
“You’ve been blocked,” messages from former Facebook friends.
And out come the denials:
“Me? For work? I’m just a teacher – about stuff.”
“And yes…I’m’ a Christian, but not one of those. I don’t believe all those things that crazy Christians do.”
“Yes, I know Jesus said that was a sin, but he didn’t mean it. And I don’t believe it.”
And then, the guilt.
I just denied my Savior.
I just denied my ticket to eternity.
I just denied my best friend.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Because the story doesn’t end with Peter’s denial of Jesus.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Peter, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of Phil, the denier.
The story ends with Jesus’ non-denial of (insert your name here), the denier.
Because Jesus could have said “I’m not dying for that dude.”
He could have said, “You aren’t my follower? Good then I’ll just go back to heaven.”
He could have said, “My words aren’t important – then I won’t pronounce you forgiven.”
But he didn’t.
He went to the cross.
He suffered for your sake.
He died in order to save you.
And now – in spite of our past denials – in spite of our past sins – Jesus does not deny you.
“This…this is my brother.”
“She? She is my sister.”
“He is my dear friend.”
“She is family.”
Jesus doesn’t deny deniers of days past; he declares disassociation of God’s denial with his drastic death.
In other words:
He forgives you.
3. What Now?
Claim him as your Savior.
Claim him as your leader.
Claim him as your brother, your Messiah, your friend.
Claim him to your family.
Claim him to your friends.
Claim him to that guy on Facebook whom you will never see again.
Claim the one who did not deny you.
Claim the one who will never deny you.
Claim the one who cannot deny you – because he’s written your name into the book of life itself.
To God be the glory! Amen.