And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Was that the worst part of this whole regrettable moment for Peter—that he should have known better? That he’d had all he needed to succeed and not give in and still he found himself in this bitter place? Did he finally recognize in this moment the pride that had been in his heart? Did he see in himself the foolish man who had not only denied Jesus three times here, but had also denied Him earlier when he’d refused to heed Jesus’ warning? Did the entire evening run through his mind and magnify every mistake?
Peter didn’t believe Jesus when He told Peter he would deny Him. He’d made his boasts about being willing to die for Jesus. He fell asleep when he should have prayed. He hastily drew his sword and cut off the servant’s ear. And finally he came to the high priest’s house, exposed and vulnerable, weakened and giving in, denying Jesus before everyone even as Jesus was being questioned, preparing to die for him. It wasn’t just about this one weak moment, but it was a series of events that had gotten him here.
Peter had no one to blame but himself, but surely we can all relate to Peter. Haven’t we all gotten ourselves into a situation where we should have known better? And we can trace back over all of our wrong attitudes and choices. And ultimately for Peter, it all went back to that first denial, when Jesus told him what he would do and he refused to believe it. It all goes back to not listening to the Word of God. That is so often the origin of our failures. That is what leads us down our own regrettable paths where we find ourselves bitterly weeping, thinking, “What have I done?”
The truth is, our choices matter. Our attitudes matter. Our response to what Jesus says to us matters. Often it comes down to whether we are willing to be honest with ourselves, to agree with what God says about us, and to do things that are more likely to lead to a better outcome. And often the first step is to humble ourselves so we don’t end up facing the shame we feel when we fail so miserably. So may we take Peter’s hardest lesson to heart ourselves and seek to make right choices that start with listening to and obeying God’s Word.