Reading Time: 7 Minutes
Today’s article will feature Peter’s denial of Jesus and the actions of Judas following Jesus’ arrest. It will be told from the perspective of an imaginary follower of Jesus.
The narration begins: I was heartsick over the way Jesus was mocked and disrespected.
I never could have dreamed that anyone could be like Jesus until I met him and began following him. He had such a wonderful combination of qualities. He was the most humble person any of us had ever met, but he was also so powerful. He was so kind and gracious, but he would also correct us when we misunderstood him and boldly confront the evil people of our day.
Nearly every day that I knew him, someone was healed or delivered from an oppressive evil spirit. Yet, right before my eyes he stood completely still, while men spit in his face and used every word they could imagine to hurt him.
Like me, Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest’s house. He looked like he was in shock at what was being done to his best friend and teacher. Just as he had promised Jesus, he was true to his word. He was standing with Jesus in his time of distress.
As I watched Peter in the flickering light of the fire, my mind flashed back to what I knew of this big, bold man. I knew that he followed Jesus from the very beginning and that his mother-in-law was one of first people to be healed by him (Matthew 4.18; 8.14). I had laughed with the other disciples when they told the story of how Peter walked a few steps on the water, but then needed to be rescued by Jesus (Matthew 14.28-29).
I had just started following Jesus when I heard Peter tell Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.16). Up to this time, I had only hoped that my belief in Jesus was right. Peter confirmed it for me. I knew then that I would follow Jesus and serve him any way I could. I definitely wanted to be part of the new kingdom that he was bringing into the world.
That interchange between Peter and Jesus was one of my most memorable experiences of my time with them. In the span of a few minutes, Jesus told Peter that he would build his church on Peter’s leadership. As we were digesting that piece of news, Jesus predicted his own death in Jerusalem. Peter stood up to him and told him that wouldn’t happen and Jesus rebuked him before us all (Matthew 16.16-23).
If you weren’t there, I don’t think you can understand what it was like to try to piece together all that was said in this short conversation. We learned that Jesus was the Messiah, but then heard he would die. In one moment, Jesus told Peter he would build his church on him and the next he called him “Satan” (Matthew 16.23).
My mind had drifted to the time when Peter, James and John saw Jesus in his heavenly glory (Matthew 17.1-8), but a servant-girl interrupted my thoughts. She was standing in front of Peter and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean” (Matthew 26.69).
I was really shocked to see Peter duck his head and say, “I do not know what you are talking about” (Matthew 26.70).
Peter moved away from the woman and to a little less conspicuous place near the porch. Another servant-girl was there and she called out to the crowd of people milling about, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 26.71).
I heard Peter take an oath and say, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26.72).
Peter risked his own life in the Garden, when he struck out with a sword. He took a great risk to come to the house of the high priest. Most of the followers were hiding out on the Mount of Olives and in Bethany. If they recognized Peter as one of Jesus followers, he would suffer the same horrible end as Jesus.
Still, Peter took an oath. He swore that his statement was true and then lied.
Even after two close calls with being identified, Peter couldn’t pull himself away and get to safety. It was bound to happen. A man came up to Peter and said, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you” (Matthew 26.73).
All of us spoke with a Galilean accent and anyone in Jerusalem would notice it. Peter swore another oath and added a few curse words to make his point. He said forcefully to the crowd around him, “I do not know the man!” (Matthew 26.71).
Peter sensed that his good fortune was running out. He quietly left the courtyard, fully of shame and convinced that he couldn’t help Jesus. I heard a rooster crow and remembered that Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the crowing of a rooster (Matthew 26.34 and 75). When I last saw Peter, he was sobbing and so was I.
I avoided all of the crowds and walked back to the Mount of Olives. I was afraid that the authorities might come and arrest us for following Jesus. I wasn’t completely sure of what would happen to Jesus, but if Peter was afraid, I had every reason to be afraid, too.
I later learned that Jesus was taken to Pilate (Matthew 27.1-2). When I heard that, I knew my absolute worst were true. They went to Pilate to get the Romans to crucify him.
I the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I heard about what happened to Judas. A person who served in the Temple area, said that Judas wanted to give back the money he had received for betraying Jesus (Matthew 27.3-5).
The person who told the story said that Judas said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27.4).
The heartless leaders told him, “What is that to us? See to it yourself” (Matthew 27.4). Judas did indeed take care of it all by himself. He went out and hung himself.
I have been studying the Book of Psalms to get ready for new blog articles once we have finished with Matthew. Psalm 8 is a song of praise to God and a meditation on the power that God places in the hands of human beings.
One author I have been studying made this observation. Power apart from the worship of God is destructive. Power needs the awe and worship of God to keep it in correct balance.
The account of Jesus’ trial, denial, and betrayal is a revealing picture of what happens when people exercise power separate from God.
Religious authorities used their power to spit in the face of the Son of God.
Peter used his power to stand for Jesus, but ended up denying him in shame.
Judas used his power to forever be known as the person who betrayed the Savior of he world.
Let’s examine the power that God has placed in our hands and make sure that it is directed by a healthy and vibrant worship of God.
Dear Jesus, we worship you today. We confess that we have denied you with our silence. We have spit in your face with our willful sins and self-centered living. We have betrayed you by claiming a relationship with you, but by living by the standards of the world. Please forgive us and please restore us to a living worship of your very being.