Peter said to [Jesus], “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mk 14:29-31)
Jesus’ words, “You will all fall away” (Mark 14:27) must have touched a nerve in Peter who quickly respond, “Not me. I don’t know about these other guys, but I’m all in. You can count on me. I will not fall away.” Peter is just being Peter. When Jesus spoke of dying in Jerusalem, Peter was the one who rebuked him. Peter thought he could walk on water, too. Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. Peter is the “hold my beer” disciple who’s got it all figured out.
Jesus’ words, “You will deny me before morning” cut even deeper. Peter is more emphatic, “I would never do that. I don’t care if I have to die, you can count on me.” The other disciples are on board, too.
When a person is confirmed or joins the church in our Lutheran tradition, they promise to be faithful even to death. Easy to say when you are standing in a room full of Christians. I would imagine everyone has wondered if they would sing a different tune with a knife at their throat or a gun to the head. Odds are that will never happen, but all it takes is one video of Christian persecution and execution and we wonder if we would indeed be faithful in the face of death. We wonder what Jesus would think if we reneged on him. We wonder what he would think if we denied him.
Is that the worst thing a person could do? What about murder, adultery, gossip, materialism, divorce, abuse and theft? Sins like that do a lot more damage in this world than keeping our faith to ourselves.
Plus, are any of us immune to denying Jesus? Paul wrote to Titus about people who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (Titus 1:16). Ouch. That hit a nerve. What are we doing when we think money and possessions will give us security? What are we doing when we worry about having what we need to live? What are we doing when worship is something we only do occasionally, when it’s convenient? What are we doing when we are more than willing to gossip or lie about someone? What are we doing when we are able to help someone, but don’t? Are we denying him by our lifestyle, our priorities and our greed?
Three times before morning? We deny him many times more in a single day. Let’s be honest. Few if any of us would actually die for Jesus. Spoiler alert: Peter doesn’t die for Jesus. He denies him three times.
Jesus knows. He knew Peter would deny him. He knew all the disciples would desert him. His reaction? He loves us. He dies for us. He calls us his own.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the faithfulness Jesus my Savior. I have denied him more times than I know. But he still. Loves. Me. Amen.