The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62
If you’re over twenty, you’ve probably had occasion to be betrayed—or you may have betrayed someone close to you. That sense of injustice, of deception, of disloyalty can hardly be matched be any other wound. How can someone who identified as a friend cause so much grief?
When we think of Jesus’ betrayal, we typically look at Judas, but I believe the actions of Peter inflicted greater suffering on our Lord. Jesus knew from the beginning that he would be betrayed—prophecy had revealed this long before his birth. He well knew Judas’ character and failings. But Peter, the one who had acknowledged his divinity (Matt. 16:16); who, in all four gospels had sworn he would go with Jesus to death; Peter, his dear friend and part of the inner circle, was least expected to deny his Friend.
The pain was inflicted, not just once, but three times. Obviously, Peter was thinking of his own wellbeing, knowing that Jesus was already facing execution. But I doubt that he was thinking of Jesus at all – this one who said repeatedly that he’d die with his Friend. And then we see Peter, stunned out of his own self-interest, as he glances up and notices that Jesus has heard and seen his betrayal (Luke 22:61, 62). And he went out and wept bitterly.
I hate injustice—especially when I’m the target. Betrayal hurts. We expect those we care about or with whom we’re associated to treat us with kindness and deference, and then life surprises us with betrayal. BETRAYAL IS A PART OF LIFE in this human, unredeemed world, but Jesus showed us how to deal with the pain and rise above it.
• ADDRESS THE PROBLEM. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared on the sea shore and called Peter aside. Three times—equal to the number of Peter’s betrayals—Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Jesus, knowing all things, knew the answer, but he wanted Peter to reaffirm those commitments that he had made before the time of testing. Peter needed to search his heart to rediscover his deep and eternal love for his Lord. Yes, his flesh had been weak, but his spirit was given to Jesus forever. Peter needed to see what Jesus already knew.
• BE HONEST. Jesus didn’t gloss over Peter’s failure nor did his rub his face in it. He knew the fear that Peter had experienced in his time of testing, his time of failure. He wanted Peter to know that his disloyalty was not hidden, but it was not unforgiveable.
• RENEW THE TRUST. “Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; take care of my sheep.” Three times Peter had betrayed Jesus; three times Jesus asked Peter to search his heart; and then three times Jesus restored Peter’s commission to ministry.
• RESTORE THE RELATIONSHIP. “Follow me,” Jesus started back at the point where he had first met Peter, but his redemption changed Peter’s life forever.
People who have been disloyal, who have betrayed or wounded us or who have been unjust may not want or be willing to restore the relationship. I once heard Desmond Tutu say, “As Christians, we are obligated to forgive, but those who are forgiven cannot access that forgiveness unless they repent.”
Father, injuries seem to be part of living in an unredeemed world. Help us, as much as lies within us, to forgive and to redeem. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.