Peter denied Jesus – he denied Him three times! Mark 14:71 records Peter’s third denial. A synonym for deny is refuse. In this case, Peter refused to admit that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. I think Peter may have refused to admit that he knew Jesus because he felt confused. Making a slightly different interpretation of the word deny, I suggest that to deny can mean to forget. Did Peter have spiritual amnesia causing him to forget what Jesus had explained to the disciples about His upcoming death? When Peter witnessed what was happening to Jesus, he may have become worried about what might happen to himself. For his own safety, he may have have felt the need to deny any association with Jesus. Anxiety can cause us to not think clearly and to do strange things.
A short time after denying Jesus, Peter heard a rooster crow two times. Oh, oh! Peter then remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him as recorded in the beginning of Mark 14:72, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
And he broke down and wept.
The crow of the rooster may have cured Peter’s amnesia and caused him to reconsider who Jesus truly was. Peter wept with remorse when he realized he had denied Jesus.
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Fast forward to a few days after Jesus’ resurrection and we find Jesus having breakfast with His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Although Peter denied (or forgot) Jesus three times as recorded in Mark 14:68-70, Jesus does not deny (or forget) Peter. Jesus knew Peter and He knew his strengths and weaknesses of character. While Peter forgot Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to remember who He was. I wonder if Peter needed to be asked this question three times because it took him that long to remember who Jesus truly was. Peter had to have his mind remade – he had to be re-minded.
It is worth noting that the first two times Jesus questioned Peter about his love, He used the Greek word agape for love while the third time He used the term phileo. Agape love is God’s love, a spiritual, selfless love while phileo love expresses love on a friendship level. In His first two inquiries, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with God’s kind of love. The last time, Jesus lowered his type of love to friendship. It is also interesting to note that each time after Peter assured Jesus that he loved Him, Jesus gave him a command of something to do, such as “Feed my lambs.”
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
These words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 are also words being spoken to me. I want to consider what Jesus has to say to me by applying Peter’s experiences with denial to what denial entails for me today.
It was not OK for Peter to deny Jesus but it is OK for me to deny myself. In fact, for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself – I must forget about my selfish desires. Numerous times I have denied Christ by focusing upon my own accomplishments rather than His accomplishments upon the cross. If I do not deny myself, I may deny Jesus.
Peter denied Jesus only a few hours before He was crucified upon the cross. The Matthew scripture tells me to take up my cross. What does my cross look like? Most likely I will not have to die upon the beam of a cross like Jesus, but I still need to die to myself. I need to crucify my own plans and purposes to fulfill God’s plans and purposes. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus and what Jesus had said to him. He was
re-minded. The cross has been described as a memorial, or a reminder, of who Jesus is and of what He has done for us. For me, to take up my cross allows me to be re-minded.
Although Peter denied Jesus, Jesus still had a job for him to do. Jesus told Peter to “feed His sheep.” Jesus tells me to follow Him. Only then will I know where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do.
For Peter to deny Jesus was a bad thing but for me to deny myself is a good thing.