And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. —Mark 14:66-72
Why did Peter deny Jesus? He was the rock, the first to follow Jesus, leaving so much behind to walk the uncertain road of discipleship. He had witnessed incredible miracles as his Master healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. Peter had a front row seat to the miracle of the transfiguration. And he had even walked on water. So why did Peter deny Jesus?
Fear is the four-letter word that causes us to lock our doors. It’s why we keep a light on in the middle of the night. It prevents us from reaching for our dreams or from reaching out to others in love. Fear cripples our souls and binds our hearts. It locks us in prison and throws away the key. In fearful moments, all we think of is how to protect ourselves, perhaps at any cost.
Peter was no different than we are when faced with fear. All that he had hoped seemed to be crumbling before him. The one he believed to be the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, was now arrested. Jesus’ death seemed certain, and with his death the end of Peter’s reason for living.
Add to that the overwhelming sense of seeing his powerful Teacher so helpless must have confused Peter. Why didn’t Jesus just call down a legion of angels? Why did the one with the power to still the storm not use that power now? And if Jesus was helpless to defend himself, what did that mean for Peter? How could he escape a fate like that of Jesus…arrest, abuse, execution?
In fear, Peter did what he swore he would never do. He denied Jesus Christ, not once, but three times, just as Jesus had promised. Fear had overtaken Peter.
Though you may say you would never deny Jesus, I would challenge you to examine yourself. Truth be told, I think we’ve all denied Jesus for the simple reason of fear.
Have you felt like you were supposed to do something, but then you chickened out because you were afraid? Have you known what it’s like to downplay the significance of your faith in some conversation because your were afraid of offending someone?
What is the antidote to such fear? Trusting God. It’s believing the Word of Christ. It’s experiencing the perfect love of God that casts out fear. In today’s world, Christians must battle against fear faithfully. We must learn to fully trust God and not the world. Jesus spent Holy Tuesday avoiding traps and teaching. The priests set four traps for Jesus, the first questioning His authority, to which He answered with a question and then taught three parables: The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet. The second trap challenged Jesus’ allegiance, the third trap attempted to ridicule Jesus’ belief in resurrection, and the fourth Jesus answered by claiming God’s greatest command to be “Love.”
Jesus knew what was coming but he didn’t walk through Holy Week in fear. His life was in God’s hands. That was all he needed to know.