“Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same (Matt. 26:34-35).” If there was ever an example of the expression, “Famous last words,” then this is it. Jesus and the disciples were at the Mount of Olives, and He had just told them they would all “fall away” because of Him that very night. I can almost see the indignant, impulsive disciple Peter sneer at what he considered a preposterous statement by Jesus. Of course, we all know how that turned out, as told in Luke 22:54-62, but at the time, he was convinced of his loyalty – even to the point of death. Peter did exactly as Jesus foretold and vehemently denied His Savior three times before being so ashamed that he “wept bitterly.”
Now, remember, Peter had spent years with Jesus and had seen Him perform miracles on multiple occasions. And who can forget the story recited to us in Matt. 14:22-33. The disciples were in a boat when a storm arose and “buffeted” it. Shortly before dawn, Jesus approached the terrified disciples, who cried out, “It’s a ghost.” Jesus assured them He was their Lord and invited Peter to come to Him after the former uttered these words, “…Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matt.14:28). Of course, we know that Peter had hardly stepped out of the boat when he saw the wind, became afraid, and started sinking. Jesus grabbed his hand to save him, saying, “…You of little faith,”…“why did you doubt?” After everything he had seen and done, when the moment of truth came, Peter did not step up to the plate – he merely cowered in fear and denied his Savior.
The fact is that most of us follow the example of Peter – if not in words, then at least in actions. Sometimes we do so knowingly, and other times without even being aware of it. We act a certain way in church and then entirely differently when away from it. We don’t want people to know, or we simply “forget” we are Christians. We act and speak like the world, using foul language, telling crude jokes, and in doing so, “deny” our Christianity. Then on Sunday, we return to our senses and act all righteous again – only to repeat the process that week. And what’s worse is that we do that hundreds if not thousands of times. If we repeat that often enough, it will become second nature, and we will not even know we are guilty of it anymore.
Is that not a form of denying Him? We may not necessarily cuss and tell crude jokes either and may even judge those we see doing so, but then we disparage and hate people, making us guilty of it anyway. There is more than one way to deny Christ, but we should make it one of our primary goals never to do so. If Christ was willing to go the cross for us, why would we do anything but be loyal to Him? Did His agony not set us free from the Old Law and ultimately defeat death? Did His sacrifice not open the door to the promise of the hope of eternal life? And yet we choose to deny Him by our actions, all the while judging Peter for His shameful act of denying Jesus. Shame on us – if we act that way, we should do as Peter did and “weep bitterly.”