Luke 22:54-62 (CEV)
54 Jesus was arrested and led away to the house of the high priest, while Peter followed at a distance. 55 Some people built a fire in the middle of the courtyard and were sitting around it. Peter sat there with them, 56 and a servant girl saw him. Then after she had looked at him carefully, she said, “This man was with Jesus!”
57 Peter said, “Woman, I don’t even know that man!”
58 A little later someone else saw Peter and said, “You are one of them!”
“No, I’m not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another man insisted, “This man must have been with Jesus. They both come from Galilee.”
60 Peter replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about!” Right then, while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed.
61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” 62 Then Peter went out and cried hard.
He Cried Hard
It’s fun to be part of a club or a group when everything’s going well. Fun to support the winning team. Fun to celebrate when the crowds are cheering.
But what happens when things get difficult?
What happens when the chips are down?
What happens when your friends or your job or your freedom or maybe even your life are on the line?
That’s the situation that Peter faces in this passage. Sure, Jesus told him just a few hours earlier that this was going to happen. Sure, Peter had assured Jesus that there was no way he would deny him.
But that was before the night turned terrifying – before crowds and swords and ears cut off and put back on again.
That was before the night got cold, before Jesus was locked behind closed doors, before he worried that if he admitted to knowing Jesus then it might be him taken in next.
I think we need to stop and think about this for a sec.
Peter has just spent three years with Jesus, in his more-or-less constant presence.
He has spent three years watching miracle after miracle being performed, three years listening to Jesus’ teaching of the crowds, three years having breakfast and dinner and round-the-campfire conversations with Jesus.
But when the chips are down, our friend Peter here breaks – and that breaks him!
As soon as he hears the rooster’s crow.
As soon as he catches Jesus’ eye.
He remembers, and he realizes and he reacts in a matter of moments, and he goes out and cries.
Maybe he grieves for his weakness.
Maybe he grieves for Jesus already (it’s not like he stood much of a chance from these unfair and very partial proceedings).
Maybe he grieves for all that his life has become since Jesus had first called him.
But either way he reacts with grief.
And I think that might be crucial for what we can learn from him today.
You see, there will be times in our lives where we mess up. Where – no matter how many warnings we had ahead of time – we still manage to do exactly the thing we never meant to do, and still fail to do the very thing we had hoped to do.
And when that happens (because it will happen) and we realize what we have done, we will have some choices.
We can try to ignore our failure – hoping that if we don’t notice it, then no one else will, either.
We can become defensive – we can bluster – we can make it about someone else’s mistake instead of ours to try to force the attention away from ourselves.
We can wallow in our failure – dangerously and erroneously convinced that our incorrect action somehow makes us an invalid person.
Or we can allow ourselves to grieve. Allow ourselves to see our own pain and the pain of the people around us. Allow ourselves to get honest and vulnerable.
And if we choose this last option, then we (like Peter) will open the door for healing to eventually come. We (like Peter) will make space for the possibility of reconciliation. We (like Peter) will have the opportunity to learn and to grow from our experiences so that we become deeper, more mature, more Jesus-following people in spite of but also because of the very pain we originally had to grieve.
- Many of us did not have the benefit of learning how to respond well to our mistakes as children, young adults or even as adults. But the first step to changing that is becoming aware of our own natural tendency. So what do you tend to do when you realize you’ve made a mistake?
- Do you tend to ignore it? If so, what strategies do you use?
- Do you tend to become defensive about it? If so, how does that tend to come out?
- Do you tend to wallow in it? If so, what self-harming behaviours do you engage in?
- Or do you grieve for it? If so, what healthy grieving processes – like journaling, silence, time in nature, art, or others – have you learned and developed over the years?