“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”
Matthew 26:75, NLT
Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.
“A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend.
Peter is known for:
- being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
- ‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
- finding the tax money in a fishes’ mouth, Matt 17:24-27
- having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
- in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
- his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
- at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8
Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature affecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’ on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.
A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.
Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.
We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior.
Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.
Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”
1 Peter 5:2, NIV