Summary: Using Peter as an example of how the Resurrection of Jesus gives us fresh starts and living hope
It had been the worst two and a half days of their lives. First the Master had brought them to the Garden of Gethsemane just outside of Jerusalem to pray, but instead they fell asleep, after all it was late. Perhaps if they had been awake and watchful they would have noticed the torches of the crowd coming to arrest Jesus, and they could have warned Jesus and saved him. Of course he already seemed to be expecting them. And who would have imagined that one of their own, Judas, would betray him with a kiss. The eleven all felt betrayed, they felt scared and angry inside, Peter even took his sword out and struck the high priests servant cutting his ear off. Jesus rebuked him and after a very short scuffle every single disciple fled. In a sense they all betrayed Jesus that day. None had the courage to stay and walk the road with Jesus, even though they had just sworn to Jesus they would never abandon him even to the point of death. I remember being in Jerusalem and walking those stone steps up to Caiaphas’ house and wondering, would I have been able to walk this road with Jesus?
Peter managed to muster up enough courage to follow the crowd at a distance to the courtyard of Caiaphas’, the chief priest’s, house where the religious leaders had gathered. Peter saw it all. He saw them falsely accuse Jesus of many things, spit on him, slapped him, that is until someone in the crowd recognized him as being one of Jesus’ disciples, and confronted him, he denied it. Simon Peter, the Rock, the one who walked on water with Jesus, denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Peter had disowned Jesus. Didn’t Jesus once say, Matt. 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven”?
The religious leaders weren’t satisfied with insulting Jesus, they wanted him dead, out of the way, that was their plan all along. So they took him to the Roman Governor Pilate who had him beaten, flogged with lead or ceramic tipped whips, they mocked him, beat him, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and then with the chant of the crowd, “crucify him, crucify him,” they sentenced him to death by crucifixion. They nailed him to a tree, a cross, outside of Jerusalem, a spectacle for all of Jerusalem to watch, yet only one disciple made it to the cross that day, and it wasn’t Peter. Where do you suppose the other ten were that day? Jesus died that Friday afternoon, and along with him their hopes and expectations. Then he was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, sealed with a stone.
How do you suppose Peter and the disciples felt during those long two and a half days? Worthless, ashamed, failures? They had abandoned Jesus, they were afraid (locked themselves in a room in Jerusalem). Peter knew the punishment for his denial of Jesus deserved being disowned by Jesus before his Father in heaven. He did not deserve to be part of God’s kingdom.
The truth is at some point all of us have denied or abandoned Jesus, perhaps with our words, our thoughts, or our actions. As the Bible says “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Is. 53:6).” In other words we have chosen to follow our own path rather than following Jesus, doing what he wants us to do. When we follow our own path we are denying Jesus. As a result of our selfish choices we may get what we want out of life, a great career, money, possessions, toys, lifestyle, but anytime the focus is on ourselves there is always a cost. Perhaps not at first but eventually relationships suffer (spouse, kids, parents, siblings, friends), sometimes our health suffers, many times there is empty feeling inside, because we have climbed the ladder of life only to realize the ladder was on the wrong wall. Perhaps like Peter we come to a point where God convicts our hearts and we too feel worthless, ashamed, disappointed, a failure, believe there is no hope for us. We deserve to be disowned by Jesus. Or perhaps the emptiness of our own lifestyle causes us to wonder in our hearts if this is all there is to life.