131: Peter's denial
When Jesus was bound in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter, like the other disciples, fled into the darkness. He found a hiding spot and stayed there. He watched the swaying torches as the band of soldiers led Jesus out of the garden toward Jerusalem.
Jesus had given in as willingly as a lamb. He let Himself be dragged by the godless rabbis of Jerusalem, who had so long yearned to have Him in their power.
Peter moved ahead in the darkness from one hiding place to another. He reached the gateway of the garden and watched as the band of soldiers descended into the valley of the Kidron. He sneaked along behind them, staying just off the road. He did not know why. He could do nothing to help; he wasn't even allowed to fight for his Master. He still wanted to be with Jesus. The love in his heart urged him on. His heart was crying out in despair; "Why, Master? Why? You could have commanded the angels to come to Your aid!"
Peter did not know what to do with that riddle. He had trusted in Jesus. He had expected a glorious future with the Messiah. But now it was falling apart. This was the end.
Could it be that the rabbis were right when they said that Jesus was a deceiver? No, that couldn't be. Jesus was the Messiah! Despite his despair, Peter believed that with his whole heart.
He didn't understand how all these events were possible. It was the darkest night in his life. With a pounding heart he followed the band of soldiers. He was full of fear and full of compassion for Jesus.
Suddenly, not far away, he caught sight of another figure moving in the same direction in the same cautious, fearful way. When the moon broke through the clouds, he saw that it was John.
John was not able to abandon the Master completely either. Together they whispered excitedly about the horrible event that had just taken place. They slipped into Jerusalem and walked in the shadows of the houses until they reached Caiaphas's house. The procession had already passed through the gate when they got there.
John had been to this house before, and the servant girl at the gate recognized him. He went inside, but Peter did not dare follow. He stayed outside.
This John realized when he was in the inner court. He went back, talked to the servant girl at the gate, and brought Peter inside.
Peter did not feel comfortable there. Wouldn't it have been better to stay outside than to run the risk of mingling with the enemy? Fear ran through his body whenever anyone looked at him. He glanced around for a place to stay out of the way.
In the middle of the inner court, the high priest's servants were sitting around a fire warming themselves. Peter sat down among them and put out his hands to be warmed by the fire. That way it would appear that he was a servant and did not belong with Jesus.
From where he was seated, he could see his Master standing silent and bound in a second story room. Despair swept over him whenever he looked at Jesus. He sat silent among the servants, with a heart full of hatred and fear.
It was cold, and the fire drew the people together. The servant girl at the gate came over to the fire. She had already been suspicious of Peter when she let him in. As the flickering firelight fell on his sorrowful face, she took a hard look at him. Suddenly she said, "Aren't you one of this man's disciples?"
Peter was terrified. His heart was pounding, and his throat was dry. But he recovered and said in an indifferent tone, "Not me. I don't know what you mean." The servant girl was not sure of herself, so she went away without saying anything else.
Peter didn't feel safe there anymore. He would be throwing his life away if anyone recognized him. Therefore, a few minutes later, he walked toward the gate. A rooster crowed somewhere in the neighborhood. Peter heard it, but he paid no attention. He was thinking only of his safety.
A group of people stood talking by the gate. The servant girl was among them. When she saw Peter again, she said to the others, "That man was with Jesus of Nazareth."
Another servant girl looked at Peter and said, "That's right. You belong with Him."
Peter snarled gruffly, "I tell you, it's not so. I don't even know this Jesus."
Now his fear was still greater. He couldn't leave right away, for that would only arouse suspicion. The servant girl in charge of the gate might not let him out.
He pretended to be pacing back and forth to keep warm, but inside he was burning with fear. Finally he went back to the fire and sat down among the yawning servants who were talking in low tones.
He sat there for about an hour, keeping an eye on Jesus as the trial progressed. He was too far away to understand what was being said. But when he saw how his Master was mocked and beaten, he understood what was happening. He had to bite his lip to hold back his anger and tears.
Suddenly a voice spoke up by the fire and frightened him again: "Aren't you one of His disciples?"
"No, not me," he answered. "I don't even know the man." He sensed that all eyes were fixed upon him. The men around the fire were suddenly very interested in him.
"I can tell from the way you talk," said one of them. "You're a Galilean."
A servant took a look at Peter. He was a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter had cut off. In a threatening tone he asked Peter, "Didn't I see you in the garden?"
Peter turned white with fear as he thought of what he had done in the garden. His short sword hung at his side under his cloak. It was still stained with Malchus's blood.
Peter began to curse. He swore that he did not know Jesus, that he had never seen Him, that they could put Him to death right then and there if it were not so . . . .
Peter's horrible words were interrupted by a rooster crowing loudly. Peter's voice trailed off. It was as if he had awakened from a sinful stupor, a horrible, wicked dream.
He looked at Jesus in dismay. Jesus turned around at exactly that moment and looked at Peter. Peter could feel Jesus' eyes looking deep into his. He could feel those eyes penetrating deep into his heart. In his mind he heard Jesus saying, "Truly, I say to you, even before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times."
Suddenly, what the servants thought no longer mattered to Peter. Whether he lived or died did not matter to him. He turned away, sobbing. If he had not felt so hopelessly wicked, he would have run right into the room where Jesus was. He would have made his way through the men mocking Jesus and thrown himself down at the Master's feet. But he did not feel worthy to ever come near the Master again.
Peter staggered away in the darkness. He went out the gate. When he was alone, he cried bitterly. He felt that he was surely the most wicked of all men. His heart was consumed by sorrow for his sin. Never did he love his Master so much as now.
His tears were a prayer. Deep in his heart lived the faith that the Savior still loved him and would one day forgive him for his horrible unfaithfulness.