Exam results day is a big deal every summer. It is covered on all of the news outlets and they will usually have clips of young people jumping up and down screaming with delight at having passed their exams. Of course, not everyone will be delighted; some will sadly be devastated having failed to get the grades they needed. It must be a challenge for the teachers sharing the joy of many whilst consoling others who are in floods of tears.
In today’s reading we see Peter fail completely while Jesus, in spite of all that is being thrown at him, seems shine in the darkness.
Peter was a brave man. We know this from his conduct earlier that night when he attempted to protect Jesus against a detachment of soldiers armed only with a sword. In fact it was this courageous act that caused one of the servants to recognise Peter as a disciple (18:26). However brave he’d been earlier, as the night wore on his courage melted away and he denied knowing Jesus three times. Christians have speculated as to why Peter would do it but we simply do not know his thought process. However we all know what it’s like to be caught up in the moment and make all kinds of promises only to forget them when reality bites. If Peter can fail then so can we.
John is the only one to record Jesus’ visit to Annas’s house. He had been the high priest from AD 6 to 15 and the current high priest, Caiaphas, was his son in law. Commentators have suggested that he was a sort of ‘power behind the throne.’ When questioned, Jesus was open and honest. He had said nothing that could be twisted into a call for rebellion. What I find astounding here is the resolve of the Lord Jesus. Remember, he is the Word made flesh, the one who formed the universe and could call on twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). He had dismissed sicknesses, evil spirits and even storms with a command, but he stood there bound whilst unnamed sycophantic servant punched him in the face. It wasn’t that he didn’t have options; there were numerus things he could have done to shut them all up or even judged them on the spot. But he stood there and took it and all of the brutality that followed. He did it because it was the will of the Father, he did it for love, he did it for me and he did it for you.
What about Peter? As we saw in Luke 22:61 ‘The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.’ From what we see of Jesus in all of the Gospels, I don’t believe it was a look of judgement. Jesus knew he would deny him, he’d prayed for him and he had a work for him to do. It must have felt like the end for Peter, all of the other Gospels tell us that this tough fisherman broke down and wept. Wonderfully, Jesus didn’t allow Peter’s failure to derail his purposes and we will see him restored before the end of John’s Gospel. The Church is not made up of perfect people, it’s made up of people who have failed and been forgiven. Perhaps as you read these notes you are thinking of your failures and you feel unworthy to follow Jesus. Actually, none of us are worthy except Jesus, the one who stood there and took the worst that humanity can do to give us the best that God has. When he was being punched he knew that Peter would fail but his grace is bigger than our failure, our sin and the price was paid. Hallelujah!
‘Lord I come to you
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I found in you.
And Lord I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of your love.’ (Geoff Bullock)