While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Peter had a deep fault line in his personality, and it shows here. He didn’t do well under pressure.
I think every follower of Jesus identifies with Peter. We don’t want to exhibit braggadocio like Peter did in the upper room at the Last Supper, and say: “Lord, that would never be me” (14:29). Jesus knows the stuff we are made of, even when we do not.
Peter’s problem with pressure continued well into his Christian journey. Look at what happened in Antioch. Gentile believers were coming to Christ in great numbers. Peter broke kosher dietary rules to eat with them. For the first time in his life he was eating meat and dairy products at the same time.
However, certain members of the very observant Jewish believers came to Antioch and were not happy with Peter’s conduct. What did Peter do? The same thing He did in the high priest’s courtyard. He wilted! Paul rebuked him (Galatians 2:11).
Peter withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers because he couldn’t take the pressure of adverse opinion. This cracking under pressure comes long after the resurrection! It represents a fault line in Peter’s personality that the Enemy exploited.
Perhaps you identify with Peter. There is an area in your life where the Evil One knows you are susceptible. He will keep coming back to your weakness time and time again.
Did Peter ever get over his vulnerability to pressure? Yes, most definitely! At the end of his life he has made his “calling and election sure” and was prepared to soon put aside “the tent of this body” (2 Peter 1:10–14). Early church tradition says that Peter chose to be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy of being crucified as was his Lord.
Luke’s gospel tells us that after his third denial, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (22 :61). No wonder Peter “broke down and wept.
”Do you also weep when you have failed the Lord? Is there remorse? Granted, the Lord sees that we crack under pressure, but does that nevertheless grieve us when we fail? Or do we go on sinning or failing in a cavalier manner?
Don’t you love the Lord’s great grace? Jesus never gave up on Peter. In fact, after the resurrection, Peter was the first of the eleven disciples to whom Jesus appeared (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5). The Lord looks at us when we fail, but He holds out His arms afterward to enfold us in His amazing love.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so grateful that You continue to love me even when I fail. I love you.
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s forthcoming book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available in September from Vital Resources.