Just today I heard a dialogue upon the current state of justice in America, referencing the investigative and political intrigue that fills our daily news. The commentator made a compelling case that this is a troubling time of upside-down justice – that there is no longer balance, but rather a political state seeking to accomplish their own means through the alleged cover of the justice system. My point in not to render a judgment on this matter, but rather to say how troubling it is to imagine that there may be a time in America where there is not equal justice under the law. Though imperfect, the American system has provided the best historical system of justice the world has ever known. We’ve been blessed. But the prospect of injustice prevailing is troubling to the soul.
Where do you go when justice is running amuck? What can you trust? If you are on the minority side that is opposite of the powers that be, where can you turn for safety? This is an actual reality for many Christians in varied countries around the world that are hostile to the gospel.
And hostility toward Christ and his followers was most specifically playing out in our passage today about Peter’s three denials of knowing Christ. We would like to think that we would not have failed so miserably in the same setting, yet none of us have ever faced such a moment.
Jesus has been arrested and is appearing before Annas, the high priest. We know from John’s gospel that John and Peter were able to follow at a short distance and gain access inside the courtyard. The other disciples are nowhere to be found … remember that when feeling critical of Peter.
The picture we get is of a chilly evening in Jerusalem, in the middle of the night, and there is a group of bystanders who are warming themselves around a fire. And Peter is there, attempting desperately to blend in. A servant girl recognizes Peter as one of Christ’s disciples – her statement apparently with the tone of “You’re not one of the whackos who follow this nut-job Galilean preacher dude, are you?”
He replied, “Woman, I don’t know him,”
A second time an individual begins to recognize that Peter was one of those individuals previously with Jesus. Peter’s cover was cracking.
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
Surely his Galilean accent was giving him away as well.
The third accusation is from a relative of Malchus (known from parallel gospels) – the fellow whose ear had been sliced off his head. Surely the perpetrator of such a deed would be recognized and remembered.
After Peter’s loud protestation of not knowing Jesus, the rooster crows as predicted, and Jesus looked through the crowd and made eye contact at this very moment. Wow!
Peter – what a loser! Or is he? Surely not any one of us would have done the same thing in the same situation! Or would we? Would we even be there close enough to make a denial?
This was a failure on Peter’s part – without doubt. He had earlier proclaimed he would die for Christ (and ultimately, he would). But recall this – though ill-conceived and foolish, it was Peter who was willing to swing a sword when a cohort of about 60 soldiers and others came to arrest Jesus.
And while the bulk of the disciples were slinking about in the darkness on the other side of the Kidron Valley while Jesus is being put on trial, Peter is risking being nearby. Does close only count in horseshoes and hand grenades?
Would you have been nearby? Would you have identified yourself with Jesus in this scenario? How well do you identify with Jesus today in your world and in the places you frequent? This is a probing question and passage, isn’t it?
Luke 22:54 – Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.