The Apostle Peter was a fisherman before he became a fisher of men and a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was filled with bravado and not a little pride, as he adjusted to being one of the inner group of 12 confidents of Jesus.
It was Peter, who in that moment of courage recorded in Matthew 14:28-29, got out of a fishing boat in the middle of a storm, and walked on water. But slowly, slowly, as Peter’s time with the Lord passed, the pride in Peter seems to have grown. Then on the last night on which Jesus was to be with them, it all changed when, after hymn singing, they all went out to the Mount of Olives. Then as Matthew 26:312-25 says:
“… Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be offended because of Me this night. For it is written, “I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” But after I have risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.’
Peter answered and said to Him, though all shall be offended because of You, I will never be offended.
Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this night, before the cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.’
Peter said to Him, though I should die with You, yet I will not deny You. All the disciples also said the same.”
There it is, the last prideful claim by Peter: “though I should die with You, yet I will not deny You!” One can almost imagine his gestures to the others as he said it. Yet is was not to last.
Scarcely had one hour passed since Jesus’ prophecy to Peter on the Mount of Olives, when Judas Iscariot arrived with a “band and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3) to take Jesus into custody. On the other side, according to the Bible, the only person in Jesus’ group armed and bearing a sword, was none other than the fearless and redoubtable Peter. The story continues as Jesus approaches the cohort leader:
“Then Jesus, knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went out and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek’?
They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I AM!’ And Judas who betrayed Him also stood with them. Then as soon as He had said to them, ‘I AM,’ they went backward and fell to the ground.
Then He asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I AM. Therefore if you seek Me, let these go away’; (that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me, I have lost not one of them”).
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. And the servant’s name was Malchus.” (John 18:4-10).
Peter’s pride and bravado aside, in the face of a cohort of trained and fulltime professional Roman soldiers and officers of the Sanhedrin, he fearlessly drew his sword and attacked the enemy. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put up your sword again into its place; for all who take the sword shall perish with a sword’” (Matthew 26:52) and then Jesus touched Malchus’ ear, and healed it (Luke 22:51). Then
“… the band, and the chiliarch, and under-officers of the Jews together seized Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first….. Jesus going with the officials, into custody (John 18:12-13)
As the captors led their leader away, Jesus’ disciples and followers scattered and fled in fear of their lives, but:
“… Simon Peter and another disciple [John] followed Jesus. That disciple was known to the high priest, and he went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest.
But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple went out, the one who was known to the high priest, and spoke to her who kept the door and brought Peter in.
Then the girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘Are you not also one of this man’s disciples?’ He said, ‘I am not‘ (John 18:15-17)
There it was. Peter, who just hours before hand had boasted “though I should die with You, yet I will not deny You,” the same Peter who had fearlessly faced down a cohort of the Roman garrison and the officers of the Sanhedrin, denied Jesus before a young servant girl. As John 18:18-27 records, Peter, the mighty man of valour, went on to deny Jesus three times that night in quick succession.
What happened? To start with, it is clear that Peter did not know the source of his courage. As long as Peter was with Jesus, he was invincible; or so he thought. Demons had succumbed and fled at Peter’s words, he had healed the sick; at his words the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the mute spoke; yet before a young servant girl, he lost all courage and denied even knowing Jesus!
It is quite clear that Jesus did not cause Peter to fall that night – He just removed the grace, by which Peter stood.
This story should be a salutary lesson for all Christians today. It is only by the grace of God, that we stand.