Today’s reading: Luke 22:47-71
Today we read Luke’s account of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Here is the text:
After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. Luke 22:54-62
First, what is interesting is that Peter, “followed at a distance”. This is Peter’s first mistake and is characteristic of how many of us live out our relationship with Jesus. We consider ourselves followers but we follow at a distance.
Second, recall that it is night and is the desert landscape around Jerusalem the temperature drops quite low at night. A fire has built. Rather than going close into Jesus, Peter remains at a distance and warms himself by the fire. This is another way we tend to manage our relationship with Jesus. The Lord asks us to engage the poor and the persecuted. Again, we remain at a distance and seek physical comfort.
Finally, notice Peter’s denials. He denies Jesus on three levels. Peter says that he doesn’t know Jesus, that he is not with Jesus, and that not related to him (by denying he is from the same ethnic area of Galilee). Thus, Peter is denying that he was a follower of Jesus, then he denies that he was even among the crowds who listened out of curiosity, and then he even denies that he’s from the same region as Jesus. Notice also, that in making his denial he call the person “accusing” him of being with Jesus a “friend”. Peter is in effect rejecting the brotherhood of Christians and siding again with the world. It is a total denial, which is why afterward, Peter “wept bitterly”. Peter’s denial is a great warning to us. He quickly went from the Last Supper and pledging to go to the cross with Jesus to total denial. If Peter could fall so fast, so could we. However, as we know, Peter will be forgiven and raised up and therefore also a great beacon of hope for us.
Tomorrow: Luke 23:1-25