Today’s devotional is really, really different, and there was much long debate as to whether to include this; but as I kept reading I really felt I began to understand the heart of the Apostle Peter in those moments leading up to the point of his three times — and this author argues it was more like six times — denying Jesus. There were some very difficult moments leading up to the more familiar denial that took place around the courtyard fire. It was a turbulent and confusing several hours.
This is from Jeremy Myers at RedeemingGod.com. It’s a transcript of a dramatized sermon in which Peter is speaking. The excerpt below focuses on four events before the denials. You’ll need to click through to read the rest, or you might just click now at the title below. (The entire sermon is also there on audio.) There’s no overt scripture today, but as you’ll see below, the narrative is packed with Bible references.
The First Prediction of Three Denials
…I should begin on the night of that last supper we had with Jesus in the upper room. I had always been known as the one who stuck his foot in his mouth, but that night, I was really on a roll.
Jesus came around and tried to wash all of our feet, but I told him he couldn’t wash mine. I was too embarrassed. We had been walking around in the mud and the animal droppings that day. My feet were filthy, and they stank. There was no way I was going to let Jesus wash my feet (John 13:1-17).
But he told me that if I didn’t let him wash my feet, I would have no part with him. I don’t know if the other disciples understood what Jesus was talking about, but I had no clue, and so I said to Jesus, “Well, in that case, wash all of me! Wash my head, and my hands, and my body as well!”
He kindly and patiently told me that I didn’t need to have all of me washed, for I was already clean. I only needed to have my feet washed. I understand now what he meant, but that’s a story for another time.
After he washed our feet, we all reclined at the table for our supper (John 13:18). He broke bread, and passed it out.
And part way through the meal, (John 13:19-35) Jesus gets this real troubled look on his face, and he looks around at all of us disciples sitting there, and says, “One of you will betray me tonight.”
This was quite a shock! We had all followed him faithfully for over three years! We had been listening to his teachings. We had been with him through thick and thin. When he was popular, we were with him. When he was unpopular, we were there too. Why would one of us betray him?
I looked around the table trying to figure out who it would be. I like to think I’m one of those analytical types, and so after thinking about it for a minute, I decided that if I had to pick someone, if one of us was going to betray him, it was going to be that Thomas.
He always was pretty critical of what Jesus said. He was always the last one to believe. He always needed proof. If any of us were going to betray Jesus, it would be Thomas.
But in the three years I had followed Jesus, I had learned to try to watch what I say. I was always the one to stick my foot in my mouth, and speak without thinking. But not tonight. I was going to watch what I say tonight.
I mean, if I wasn’t careful with what I said, I may find that I was the one who betrays Christ. And I certainly didn’t want that to happen. And besides, just a few days earlier, Jesus had called me Satan, and so I was kind of afraid that I might be the one to betray Jesus (Matt 16:23).
So rather than just blurt out my question, I decided to get John to ask it. John was the youngest of our group. He was only a teenager, and Jesus seemed to have a special connection for him.
I was sitting next to John, and he was sitting next to Jesus, so I whispered in John’s ear to ask Jesus who the betrayer was.
I could have just blurted it out myself, but I was trying to learn to control what I said.
So I asked John to ask Jesus, which he did. And Jesus, through a roundabout way of dipping bread in a bowl, indicated that it was Judas. Well, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whew! I was not the one who would betray him! I was in the clear!
So I decided to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the meal.
After the meal, Jesus started talking about how he was going to go away for a while, and I relaxed a bit, and forgot to watch my mouth, so I said, “Jesus, where are you going?” And he said, “Where I am going, you cannot yet follow me.”
And then I stuck my foot in my mouth again. I started bragging. I said, “I would follow you anywhere. I would even die for you, if you asked me to.”
It’s funny, isn’t it? I told Jesus I would die for him… I never imagined that it would be he who died for me… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Right after I told Jesus that I would follow him anywhere – even unto death – he smiled at me and said, “Well, Peter, actually, even though right now you think you would die for me, in reality, before the night is over, before the rooster crows once, you will deny me three times. You will deny me three times before the roost crows” (John 13:38).
That shut me up for a while. I though I was safe. Jesus had said that it was Judas who would betray Jesus. Not me.
But now, Jesus had just told me that I would deny him three times! How could that be? I would never deny Jesus! Never! I was willing to die for him! Why would I betray him? Why would I deny him?
I wanted to do everything I could to help him set up his kingdom – and denying him three times would certainly not be helping him. Well, this shut me up for the rest of the meal. I was thinking about what Jesus had said.
The Second Prediction of Three Denials
After supper, we left the upper room, and headed out to the Mount of Olives. It was a cool evening. The stars were out. They seemed especially bright.
While we walked there, my mind was racing. With each step, I got more and more angry at what Jesus had said. Hadn’t I followed him for over three years? Hadn’t I always been by his side? Hadn’t I always done everything he asked? Why would I deny him now when he was so close to receiving his throne? That would be insane!
But when we got to the Mount of Olives, Jesus turned around, and with great sadness in his eyes, told us that before the night was over, ALL of us would fall away from him.
Now, that should have made me feel a little better. I mean, before, Jesus had just said that Judas would betray him, and I would deny him, but now, Jesus was saying that all of us would deny him.
This should have made me feel better because now we were all in the same boat.
But rather than make me feel better, it made me more angry. Why was Jesus comparing me with the other disciples? I was stronger than any of them. I was more loyal than any of them.
Yes, I stuck my foot in my mouth sometimes, but that’s only because I was a man of action. I would rather speak before I act, or speak before I thought. I was not afraid to speak my mind. This was a strength as well. I always said what I thought. These other disciples were too timid and afraid to speak up, but not me.
And I told Jesus so. I said, “Hey Jesus, even though all of these others fall away from you, I never will.” He was wrong about what he said before, and I would prove it.
And then it was like déjà vu. Jesus looked at me, just as he had during the supper. But he changed what he said a little bit this time, and said, “Peter, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30).
I determined right then and there that I would show Jesus. And I told him so. I said, “Even if I have to die for you tonight, I will not deny you.” No matter what happened the rest of the night, I would stick by Jesus’ side.
Falling Asleep Three Times
After this, Jesus went off to pray, and asked us to stay awake and pray also. I tried, but after a while, I dozed off and fell asleep. A short while later, Jesus came back, and found us all sleeping (Matt 26:36-46).
But for some reason, even though everybody was sleeping, Jesus singled me out again. We were all sleeping, but he singles me out and says, “Simon Peter, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for even one hour?”
At first I was a little upset. Why did he single me out? Everybody was sleeping. And besides, it had been a long day, and an even longer week, and if we believed just a little bit about what Jesus was saying, we were in for a long couple of days, and tomorrow would be the biggest day of our lives!
And yet Jesus wanted us to stay awake all night praying? Come on, Jesus, we need sleep!
But then I thought – “Wait…maybe by falling asleep when Jesus asked me to pray, I had just denied Christ for the first time. Could it be? Could Jesus really think that me falling asleep was denying him? I wouldn’t look at it that way, but does he?”
Well, whether he saw it that way or not, I resolved not to fall asleep again.
Jesus went off to pray again, and wouldn’t you know it, the next thing I knew was that Jesus was waking me up again. I had fallen asleep twice! So I resolved not to fall asleep a third time.
But the night was just too long, and I was just too tired, and before I knew it, Jesus was calmly and gently waking us all up again, for the third time.
For a second, I was scared! Jesus said I would deny him three times, and I had fallen asleep three times! Was this what Jesus meant? That just by falling asleep I would be denying him?
It couldn’t be – that is so insignificant. And besides, the rooster hadn’t crowed yet – not even once, and so that couldn’t be what Jesus meant.
But…I was beginning to see how weak my resolve really was. I was beginning to see how weak my flesh was. I had told him I would stay awake and pray with him, but I couldn’t do even that. I had told him I wouldn’t deny him, and now I was beginning to wonder if I would after all.
So I decided then and there to stay awake and stay by Jesus side for whatever came next, and that no matter what, I would not deny him. Whatever comes next.
The Betrayal by Judas
I didn’t have to wait long. Immediately, Jesus announced, “Look, the one who will betray me is coming!”
And we all looked, and Jesus was right. There came Judas, surrounded by the temple guard. This didn’t look good.
Slowly, I reached underneath my tunic for the sword I had strapped on there earlier. If they tried to do anything to Jesus, I was going to split a few heads. I was going to be the first one to defend him. I was ready to kill those soldiers, and kill Judas, and die for Jesus if necessary. Whatever happened, though, I would not deny him.
Well, Judas gives Jesus a kiss of greeting. Jesus and the soldiers exchanged some words, and then one of the soldiers stepped forward saying they were going to arrest Jesus! And Jesus said to them, “Look, you can take me, but let these others go their way. Let them go free. Don’t arrest them.”
What was Jesus talking about? Jesus was trying to give himself up to them? I was going to have none of this!
So with a shout, I pulled my sword from my side, and swung it in an overhand chop as hard as I could at the head of the High Priest’s servant. His name was Malchus, and I had seen him around the temple sneering at Jesus and mocking him and making fun of him in the temple, so I decided to take him out first!
But he was a bit quicker than I thought, he was sly and wily, and rather than split his head in two, he was able to get out of the way just enough so that instead, all I did was lop off his right ear (John 18:1-11).
So I swung back to take another chop, and by this time, the temple guard were pulling out their weapons, and I was just getting ready to take another swing at Malchus when…Jesus’ voice stopped everybody else in their tracks – especially me.
Jesus singles me out again, and says, “Peter! Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given Me?”
I was flabbergasted. Jesus told me I would deny him, I said I wouldn’t. When they came to arrest Jesus, I tried to defend him just like I said I would, and now he is telling me to stop?
What was he doing? What was he thinking? I tried to defend him, and now he won’t let me?
But I had learned to obey Jesus no matter what, and so I put my sword away and stepped back to see what would happen. Maybe he was going to call down fire from heaven and incinerate the soldiers and he wanted me out of the way. This was going to be a sight to see.
But instead, he took Malchus’s head in his hands, and miraculously, healed the ear!
Here he was, healing his enemies! I remembered that Jesus had told us to love our enemies and do good to those who wish to hurt us, but wasn’t this going too far? Didn’t Jesus know they wanted to kill him, not just hurt him?
And if Jesus was killed, all of our hopes and dreams would be crushed.
But Jesus wasn’t dead yet. The soldiers came and bound Jesus and marched off with him. And just as Jesus had said, all of the other disciples fled. They ran away!
The cowards. But not me. I had promised Jesus I would not desert him, I would not deny him. I would not betray him. And I was going to keep my promise…
…continue reading, scroll down to The First Denial