Matthew 26:69-27:2 (ESV)
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. 27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Matthew shifts the reader from Jesus back to Peter, who waited in the courtyard of the high priest to see what would happen next. While there, a servant girl remarked to Peter that he was a follower of Jesus, but Peter denied it. The servant girl, both a female and a slave, was practically the most unintimidating person imaginable in comparison to Peter. But since Peter was in the home of enemies, he was scared, and he refused to be identified as “belonging” to Jesus. Feeling awkward, Peter relocated to the gate of the courtyard. Another servant girl said the same thing: Peter was with Jesus. Peter grew more aggressive and denied it with an oath. Finally, bystanders said the same thing again, declaring that Peter had to be with Jesus. This time, Peter panicked. He cursed and swore, insisting that he did not know Jesus. Immediately after this, Jesus’ prophecy came true, and a rooster crowed. Peter must have felt horrible. He insisted he would never deny Jesus. He even shadowed him into the home of the high priest. Now, fearing his own safety, he denied ever even knowing Jesus. He failed the very one he loved. And he did it three times in a row! Peter wept bitterly (v. 75). He was embarrassed before Jesus, sorry to God for his sin, and wept tears of genuine repentance.
Even as dedicated followers of Jesus, we all fail God on occasions. Like Peter, we sin against God when we think of ourselves. We want protection from suffering and harm, we want to avoid others looking down on us, or we want to indulge ourselves in something that’s not consistent with the character of our Lord. If we are saved, like Peter, we feel awful afterward. But feeling awful isn’t enough if it doesn’t lead to real repentance. If you know you shouldn’t have done something, or you should have done something and didn’t, and you feel embarrassed or badly about it before God, turn your grief into repentance today. Let him know you are genuinely sorry, and ask him for help to keep from repeating the same behavior again. God wants us right with him more than we want it for ourselves. May we learn to love repentance as much as we love faith. The two really go hand in hand.