Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I am not.”
Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself. (John 18:15-18)
Relate: Years later I am not angry but at the time it happened I felt incredibly betrayed. It was one of those locker room experiences that I would say most guys have experienced or witnessed at one point or another. In this gym class there was an alpha dog. There was that one guy who was a bit bigger and stronger than anyone else and he loved the feeling of power that toughness gave him. It was almost as if he was asking for someone to stand up to him so that he could whip their butt. The problem is, nobody ever dared.
That day, in that locker room, I was the target of his intimidation. We were currently doing soccer in that class and I was one of the best, if not the best, in that gym class for that particular sport. So here we were now, in the locker room afterwards, and he was re-asserting his dominance. To be honest, I was probably being a bit cocky leading up to the moment but with this man-boy who had three or four inches on me and muscles bulging that were easily twice the size of my own, all I could think was that I was about to die. Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of that type of intimidation and I was doing my best to sound conciliatory without just handing in my man card for all of time. I’m pretty sure I was failing on both ends. What makes it worse is that there was another strong Christian in that locker room with me. We went to the same youth group. Actually, I went to three or four youth groups at that age, but he was actively involved in my favorite one. Here this guy, this brother in Christ was, laughing at me right along with everybody else. That betrayal was far and away the worst part of the whole ordeal.
There was another kid in that locker room who I had been actively witnessing to. He was on my prayer list of classmates I was praying for on a daily basis. I had a couple other classes besides gym with him and he was part of the group I sat with at lunch. I really felt like he was getting close. The thing is, about two or three weeks later, this guy became the target of the alpha dog’s bullying for two or three weeks straight. Where I felt it for one day, he got it day after day for quite a while. Yet there I was, standing on the sideline right along with everybody else. I was laughing at his expense but inside I was dying. I knew that I had a responsibility to step up and make a stand, but because I was afraid of being on that receiving end again, I just couldn’t. To this day I feel horrible about my weakness.
React: Just as Peter probably went all the way to his grave with memories of his denial ringing through his mind. Yes, he was forgiven. Yes, Jesus had restored him. But moments like that can’t be washed away that easily.
It is so easy for us to look at Peter, point the finger, and say, “How could you.” It is easy for us to smugly lean back, from the perspective of two thousand years later, and talk about how weak and cowardly Peter had been. But Peter was at least there. Nine of the other disciples were nowhere to be found. John was still following from a distance, and Judas was viewing it all from the vantage of a betrayer. Peter was right in the mix… but when push came to shove he wasn’t man enough to stand up for his Lord. Neither was I. Neither was my friend. The question is, will we allow such failures to define us or we stand back up on our feet and begin following again? Will we rise, or will we forever wallow in the fact that we have denied Christ?
God, forgive me. For the times when I have denied You, like Peter, forgive. There are no words to express how deep the sorrow of my failure runs. You have taken the nails for me, but in return I have turned my back on You. I’m sorry. God, I am so sorry. But let that sorrow always lead me to repentance. Don’t let me wallow in guilt and define myself as a failure. You’ve already forgiven me. You’ve already paid the price for my denial. So please, Lord, help me get back on my feet and continue to follow You. Your grace covers even the most despicable of my sins.