I have a pretty strong feeling that one day I’m going to write a book about Peter. Since fully dedicating my life to Jesus in 2015, it’s been Peter who I related to most strongly in the word of God. Of the first nine Bible blogs I ever wrote, seven of them were about Peter. I know most people have a strong affinity for Paul, but for me, Peter is forever my guy. As we reach the end of the book of Luke, we come to one of the moments that Peter is best known for, his denial of Jesus. To set the stage, the last supper has been had, and Judas just betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the authorities. That’s where we pick this up.
Luke 22:54-57 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” 57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
As most of you probably already know, Peter goes on to deny knowing Jesus two more times, fulfilling what Jesus told him was going to happen. Once Peter fully realizes that it all went down just like Jesus said, the gravity of what he’s done sinks in and he runs away in tears. I’ve known people who have a very harsh view of Peter for this moment in his life, but I always read this moment with a broken heart, because I can feel just how shattered Peter was over what he’d just done. I’m not at all saying it wasn’t terrible to deny Jesus, but I am saying that my heart goes out to the man in this moment.
I think it’s my belief that Peter gets an unfairly bad reputation that inspires me to dig deep into Peter related scriptures such as these. Having done so, I really want to spend a little time looking at this entire situation through a wider lens. Jesus gets betrayed by one of the twelve disciples, arrested, and dragged away. That leaves eleven stunned disciples standing in the garden in the middle of the night, shocked and dismayed over what just took place.
How many of them does the Bible say went with Peter and followed the men who arrested Jesus? None, or possibly one, according to what we’re told in the Bible. Only Peter is said to have followed in the book of Luke. The book of John says a second disciple also went with Peter. Since this is a study of Luke, however, I’d like to stick with what Luke wrote, which is that Peter went after Jesus alone. You can call him a lot of things, but questioning his loyalty to his lord seems unfair to me. Standing around and doing nothing is easy. Heading out into the dark after the enemies that just seized Jesus is anything but easy.
But it gets tougher. They arrive at the high priest’s home and the guards (the guys with swords) light a fire and take a seat around it. And Peter wanders up and takes a seat with them. I’m fascinated by this moment. It’s outrageously bold, probably even reckless, but it again show’s Peter’s conviction in protecting and helping Jesus. We have no way of knowing what Peter’s plan was. Was this an ill-advised rescue mission? Was he just acting on instinct and not thinking at all? Was he just concerned for Jesus and wanted to be nearby? I don’t know. It was a bold, courageous, and probably pretty unwise move, and yet I find that I can’t help but respect it. And I’ll tell you why.
Peter had a passion about following Jesus that isn’t easy to find. It was fierce, devoted, emotional, and beautiful. No, Peter didn’t have the most wisdom in the world, which is why he has some pretty famous “whoops” moments in the word of God. Arguably, sitting with the guards who just arrested Jesus and pretending to be one of the guys was one of those “whoops” moments. But man, did he passionately chase after Jesus. The only disciple to step out of the boat and walk on water, the only one to follow Jesus after his arrest, the only one who dove off the boat and swam to shore when he saw the resurrected Jesus. I’d take the heart of Peter any day of the week. If I’m going to get in trouble, let it be because my love and passion for Jesus sometimes overwhelms my critical thinking skills.
There’s another thing about this moment that I find really beautiful. Getting to know the brash, instinctive, sometimes un-wise Peter just allows you to fully marvel at who he grows into over time. The Peter that made these mistakes is the same one that the book of Acts tells us preached a sermon that brought 3,000 people to Jesus. He’s the same Peter who speaks with such love and wisdom in his letters in the New Testament. Those letters are proof that those of us who aren’t quite there yet are still doing okay. Those of us who misstep, who try to rush things sometimes, who have fallen on their face because they tried to pursue Jesus at a breakneck pace, it shows us that it’s okay. Just like Jesus was always there for Peter to pull him out of the water and encourage him, Jesus is always going to be there for us. If you’ll keep the faith, the wisdom will increase, the missteps will decrease, and you’ll arrive at the place you were seeking all along.
There’s no definitive word on why more of the disciples didn’t go with Peter. They might’ve been too scared. They might’ve had a little more wisdom and were sitting back to hatch a plan. Maybe they were too heartbroken, too downtrodden. They’d been hoping that Jesus was there to overthrow those in power, and now he was being arrested and taken away to be killed. That’s not the outcome they’d hoped for, and now all hope to see THEIR preferred outcome seemed lost. Whatever the case, one man took action. I think you can debate all day about if it was the right or wrong action, wise or unwise, but Peter went after Jesus despite the circumstances. Despite the confusion, despite the danger, despite the disappointment, and despite the heartbreak. And I find myself admiring him for it and wishing for the same heart. Asking for the same commitment to the cause.
To close this out on a practical level, I ask this question. Where’s Jesus at in your life? For me, he’s in the Bible. I commune with him closest when I’m deeply studying the word of God. So then the question becomes, am I passionately chasing after the Bible the way that Peter so passionately went after Jesus? Am I forsaking all else so that I can stay close to Jesus?
Jesus lives inside of us. We don’t have to travel far and wide to passionately seek him out. It takes more effort NOT to spend time with him in bible study, prayer, and worship than it does TO spend time with him. Passionately pursue him. Pray for wisdom, I’m not encouraging mistakes, but run after Jesus. Dive off of boats if you see him out on the water. Pray for a love and a passion for him that is unrivaled and watch as your relationship with him blossoms and explodes with power, joy, and purpose.
I love all of you. I hope your week wraps up nicely tomorrow and that you have a wonderful, restful weekend!
If you’ve got a prayer request or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org