Jesus’ parting with Peter was sad!
Peter denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest’s residence. “I don’t know him,” was Peter’s repeated statement. Now after a month it was time for Jesus and Peter to have a talk about the disciple’s denial. This would clear the air and send Peter on his way to be a strong witness for the Savior.
In the hours before His crucifixion, Jesus wasn’t hiding anything from the disciples. He let them know this would be a difficult experience for them also. He said to them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me.”
Confident of his own strength, Peter responded, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
Jesus replied, “Peter, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Then came that time in Gethsemane, the arrest, and Jesus being led off to the high priest for an unjust trial. The disciples were beside themselves. Peter followed Jesus. When they got to the courtyard where Peter was warming himself, he was asked three times, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” All three times Peter replied, “I don’t know him.”
After Peter’s third denial of Jesus, the Lord walked past the disciple, gave him a sad look, the rooster crowed, and the guilty Peter came apart. The Bible says, “He went out and wept bitterly.” This was the last contact between Jesus and Peter until after the resurrection.
Peter had to wonder if Jesus could ever use him again as a disciple. Well, if he could, Christ and Peter had some unfinished business. Certainly the sin of denial had to be dealt with, so Jesus lost no time. “Peter, do you love me more than these?”
Peter answered, “You know that I love you, Lord.” He was now content to answer only for himself and did not attempt to evaluate the love others had for Jesus. This penetrating question was answered three times, and each time Peter confessed his love for the Lord Jesus. On the basis of his confession, Jesus restored Peter to his discipleship and said to him, “Follow me.” What an example of that amazing grace we sing about at our worship services.
How important it is for us to have those one-on-one times with Jesus as His Word explores the sin in our lives. How devastating it is when we let these sins separate us from our Heavenly Father and other people! For some strange reason, we think it is possible for us to carry hatred in our heart and have a happy, peaceful life. Tom and Harry lived this way. I’ve told the story so many times, but let me tell it once more.
There was a strike among the workers in the mill where both of these men worked. One chose to strike, the other crossed the picked line and went to work. This broke a friendship of many years. No longer did they enjoy the company of each other. In fact, years went by and they never spoke to each other. Then Tom, my mother’s brother, was dying of cancer. Mother was sitting with him in his hospital room when the door opened and there stood Harry. “May I visit with Tom for just a minute?” Harry pleadingly asked. Mother was so happy to see Harry that she ushered him to her brother’s bedside. Harry got down on his knees and, with tears rolling down his cheeks said, “Tom, what a fool I have been. All these years we could have enjoyed the company of each other, and we let a little dispute separate us. Both of us are Christians. We worship at the same church, kneel at the same communion rail and yet we have lived contrary to our Lord’s command. Will you forgive me, Tom?”
Tom, who was so weak that he could not feed himself, lifted his arms, embraced Harry, and asked, “Will you forgive me?” Christ was there, they sensed his forgiveness, and forgave each other. Peace had been restored.
How sad that years had passed and these men hid their sin toward God and each other! But how wonderful, that the one-on-one times together brought forgiveness, and Tom died in peace.
Each one of us have stories to tell. What a powerful lesson this encounter of Jesus with Peter teaches us. How many broken relationships could be restored? How many families could begin to live with joy, which had been turned to hatred because brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children were so proud they could not say I am sorry. How many congregations have been divided because of strife and could not minister to their communities because their actions spoke louder than their words.
These meetings with Jesus and then with one another are a must for a happy, personal relationship. He will always forgive, however, we must come in repentance and faith before we hear Christ’s assuring words, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”