And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
What kind of hopelessness, what kind of despair, what kind of sorrow entered Peter’s heart at that moment? What kinds of thoughts might have been going through his mind? Probably ones very similar to those that pass through our minds when we realize we’ve messed up and that instant regret hits us like a punch in the gut.
Maybe he was thinking, “I said I was willing to die with Him. I said I wouldn’t deny Him, and look how easily I’ve done just that. Look how little it took for me to deny Him not just once, but three times. He told me I would do so, and I almost laughed. I scoffed that I, Peter, could do such a thing. This man has taken over my heart. I can hardly understand it, but I know He is God standing in front of me. And now what have I done? Something I can never undo. And they are taking away my Lord to kill Him, and I’m pretending I’ve never met Him before. I’m acting like my heart doesn’t burn within me when He is near. I’m saying I can’t possibly be associated with Him when I’ve wanted nothing more than to follow Him everywhere and anywhere. He has entered my world and turned it upside down, and here I am worrying what these people think about me and what it means that I am His. And I’ve failed. And how can I ever come back from this? I may as well be counted as a Pharisee.”
Maybe he feared he was lost forever now, that he would be as easily cast aside by Jesus. Maybe he thought that since he denied Jesus that Jesus would now deny him. Maybe he felt like after what he had done he could never be forgiven or restored or accepted by Jesus again. And don’t those same fears and sorrows sometimes enter our hearts? When we’ve messed up in some particularly severe kind of way, do we wonder if we are beyond the reach of His grace? If this will be the one thing He can’t or won’t forgive? Do we fear, perhaps, that we can lose His love when we’ve failed Him so?
But Jesus’ love is bigger than that. His grace is more than that. His power to heal and restore and bring us back from those kinds of places is infinite and available to us. There is no going back and undoing what we’ve done. There was no way for Peter to take back the words of those denials. There is no way to change the fact that it happened. But Jesus was going to the cross to die for Peter, too, and for every one of those sins we wish we could take back. Jesus was going to be our offering, our sacrifice, our atonement so His blood could cover over those things and blot them out in a way we never would be able to. Jesus was going to make right for us those things we would otherwise have to carry with us forever. He offers us forgiveness and sets us free. That’s what the cross was all about. And perhaps what Peter’s denials were all about was revealing that deep-seated weakness in all of us that can only be remedied by the all-encompassing and unmatched grace of Jesus.