Let’s Give Peter a Break by Lisa Burkhardt Worley

Do you label people for the bad they’ve done—or the good?

Most of us remember the disciple, Peter, for the fact that he denied Jesus three times in the courtyard as Jesus stood trial. Here’s the account:

“One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, ‘You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.’ But Peter denied it. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed. When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, ‘This man is definitely one of them!’ But Peter denied it again. A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said ‘You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.’ Peter swore, ‘A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!’ and Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And he broke down and wept.”

On the surface, this scenario looks like failure and weakness on Peter’s part. How could he deny Jesus, knowing what he knows and after seeing what he saw for the past three years?

But what I realized while reading this passage this week, is that Peter was the bravest of all the disciples. He actually made himself vulnerable by going to where Jesus was on trial. There was no mention of the other disciples being there because they were probably still in hiding. Peter was brave enough to be in the courtyard, most likely close enough so he could hear the proceedings.

After seeing Peter from a different perspective, I realized I needed to give this future bold man of faith a break. If I had been in that band of early disciples, I know the courtyard outside Jesus’s trial would have been the last place I would have gone for fear of being arrested. Who am I to judge Peter?

So this can apply to current day. Sometimes we expect too much of our religious leaders and we are quick to judge when there is a chink in the armor. Maybe it makes us feel better to be critical, because deep down, we know we could never do what they do.

Perhaps today is the day to look at any perceived weaknesses in our faith leaders from a different perspective. Peter did not stay in that place of rejection for long. As we know, he became one of the boldest disciples who was not afraid to proclaim the truth. He was eventually martyred for his beliefs. The failure at the courtyard represents the failure that we all experience as we follow Jesus. Some days we are closer than others. Other times we are in hiding. Over the years I know there have been times when I, too, have denied Jesus. But I am thankful that my past rejections do not define who I am as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

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