Matthew 26:69-75 Peter Denies Jesus
No one likes rejection. Especially when it’s in scary, bold-red letters. The fear that IRS ninjas will soon ensure your death by a million paper cuts also doesn’t help.
I wanted my tax software to warn me. At first, it faithfully showed me the error of my ways. But when it came to the last step of filing, it left me alone to declare my identity. What was my PIN? I didn’t know. What was my Prior Year AGI? That, I could find. Problem: I looked at the wrong tax return—the one without final changes.
Warnings can be nice. In North Carolina, Hannah Jordan is probably wishing her laptop wasn’t decorated with bullet holes. On the other hand, the warning that Jesus gives to Peter in Matthew 26:34 doesn’t seem nice at all. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” An invitation for a defensive response if I’ve ever heard one.
Jesus’ divinity adds another measure of unpleasantness to His warning to Peter. Jesus knows that Peter will deny Him, so did His warning set Peter up for failure? Was Peter like Schrodinger’s cat, simultaneously follower and denier, until Jesus declared His warning, thus sealing Peter’s cowardly fate?
Or was Jesus doing that pesky thing He likes to do… teach? Might He have said…
“I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night will be one of the longest and darkest nights of your life. Sleep-deprived, you will be faced with a violent riot, lead by a former friend. You’ll try your best to defend our lives and our dignity, but I won’t let you. In fact, you will realize that I am actively endangering myself, my chance at teaching in the future and the lives of you and your friends.
“Only after you find yourself outside in a dark courtyard, cold and all alone, will you question whether it was all a big mistake. You will painfully remember that your teacher is not here to tell you what is right or wrong and you will think that even if he was with you, you would no longer trust him to know the truth. You will wonder if you can survive this night, let alone get another job and make other friends.
“Though you know who you truly follow, when a servant girl interrupts your thoughts and asks you to declare your identity, you will not wish to know. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ you will reply.
“When another servant girl notices you and asks you to declare your identity once more, you will grasp for the Peter that existed before I turned your life upside-down and challenged you to make some final changes. To the staring eyes, you will say, ‘I don’t even know the man.’
“When bystanders recognize your accent and threaten to ruin your chance at ever returning to life as it was, drawing closer and closer to the string that will undo your mask, you will hope so desperately that this whole situation is untrue that you swear, ‘A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!’
“And I will wake you up with an avian call, the alarm clock before alarm clocks were invented, shining the light of truth into that cold, dark, and miserable courtyard. My words will suddenly flash into your mind and you will remember that before you renounced your identity as my follower and before your highest hope was to return to life as usual, that I told you that you would regret ever meeting me. You will realize that my warning to you was true, that everything I ever said was true and that therefore, I AM true.”
I think Peter wept bitterly, not because he was wrong, but because Jesus was right. There is life after rejection. After all, I haven’t met an IRS ninja yet.
Karen Yang recently graduated from Pepperdine with a B.A. in Psychology. Currently, she is serving as a youth intern at New Life Nazarene Church until she goes to graduate school in August to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. You can contact her at karen.lynn.yang[at]gmail.com.