John 18:12, 15-16 (NLT)
So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in.
We all know what happened next. When challenged about his acquaintance with Jesus, Peter denied knowing him, not once but three times. Focusing on this failure of loyalty, however, we tend to overlook the love and loyalty that compelled Peter to follow Jesus in the first place.
Peter and the other disciple (probably John) certainly risked arrest themselves by following Jesus into the gated and guarded courtyard of the high priest. This high priest was so angry and jealous of Jesus that he was willing to condemn Jesus on false testimony and convince Rome to execute him. There is no doubt such wrath would have extended to Jesus’ followers as well.
Peter, the disciple who got out of the boat during a storm to walk on water toward Jesus, did not lack courage. Nor did he lack faith, as he was the first to declare that Jesus was the expected Messiah. In the aftershock of seeing his beloved Master arrested, Peter succumbed to human frailty and fear. He doubted what he knew about Jesus. He forgot Jesus’ promises and miracles. He did not fully understand all that being a follower of Jesus must mean.
Perhaps most significant for us, Peter had not yet witnessed Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, so he did not share our advantage of historical hindsight. He felt abandoned, disillusioned, and shaken.
Years later, the older and experienced apostle would encourage Christians to build their faith and hope in God through the practice of following Jesus: Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory (1 Peter 1:21).
Like Peter, we follow Christ with imperfect faith and hearts of divided loyalties, yet we follow. We make wrong decisions, we act selfishly and foolishly, yet we follow. We follow as Peter followed, because we love Jesus and know that our only hope lies in our Lord’s love for us. Peter spoke for each of us when he told Jesus, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe, and we know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).
FATHER, I offer you my imperfect faith and my heart pulled in so many directions as the world teases and tempts me. Forgive me, as you forgave Peter, for stumbling in my efforts to follow you. Thank you for your love that never wavers and never condemns me but lifts me to where you are.
John 10:27-30; 1 Peter 1:23
Instead of dwelling on your failures, think of ways you have chosen to follow Jesus during the past week.