You’ve read the story: in one of his most defining moments, Simon Peter denied Jesus. Let that fact sink in for a moment. One of the first disciples and a man close to the Son of God denied Him. How could this have happened? More importantly, what effect did this have on Peter? Let’s take a look at what the Gospels tell us about Peter and what this moment meant.

Peter was a Galilean fisherman, far from a religious ruler. Yet despite his academic and religious ignorance, it was Peter who had the first revelation of Jesus as the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30).

Peter believed in miracles. In Luke 5:1–11, while Peter and his partners were mending their nets after a long night of unsuccessful work, he believed in Jesus’ promise of a miracle and was rewarded with an abundance of fish!

Peter believed and was fully devoted to Jesus. We see this when Peter immediately answers Jesus’ call to follow Him (Matt. 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18; John 1:40-42).

Overall, the Gospels present a picture of Peter as a devoted man, loyal to his cause, eager to learn and be a part of what Jesus was doing (Matt. 26:31-35; Mark 14: 27–31; Luke 22:31-34; John 18:10-11). Yet Jesus met Peter’s heartfelt pledge of loyalty with a prediction that he would deny his Master. This was not an easy moment for Peter. He genuinely loved, followed, and cherished Jesus as the Messiah, so to be told he would fail his Lord would have been a crushing blow! After all, didn’t Jesus say earlier that He would build His church with Peter (Matt. 16:18)?

The next few hours and days would be a dark time for Simon Peter. He cut off the ear of one of the soldiers sent to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:51-52; John 18:10; Luke 22:49-50), then fled when Jesus was arrested (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:43-50). Finally, he denied Jesus first to a female servant of the high priest, secondly to another servant girl, and then to a crowd that confronted him for his Galilean accent (Matt. 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; Mark 14:66-72; John 18:15-27). Scripture tells us that he “wept bitterly,” and no wonder. He felt he had betrayed his friend and Lord in an hour of need. Can anyone recover from such despair and self-loathing? How was he any better than Judas? Where could he go from here?

But God is merciful, because He used this dark moment in Peter’s life to teach him forgiveness and humility. It is the Father’s compassion that showed Peter how to be compassionate, and the Lord’s faithfulness to him even when he was unfaithful that demonstrated to him how to show true faith to others as he became an apostle and built the church. It was through Peter that God confirmed that the message of Salvation was open to all people, even the Gentiles.

When Peter was later faced with another opportunity to deny his Lord and Savior, he did not falter again. He was crucified upside-down and died a martyr’s death for Christ’s sake, and in so doing he spread the Word around the whole world.

If you ever feel irredeemable, remember Simon Peter’s low point, and think on what God did through that experience. It is never too late to live your life for the Lord and build what He calls you to build!

– Eszter Willard, Staff Writer

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