Why did I say that? Why didn’t I do something? If you’re honest, you’ll admit you’ve asked yourself this, too.
Like the rest of the team, Peter ran when the soldiers arrested Jesus, but he didn’t go far. He watched everything unfold from the shadows, keeping an eye on Jesus until He disappeared behind the locked doors of the high priest’s palace.
Even then, Peter stayed close. He warmed his hands around a small fire in the courtyard. Perhaps when someone poked the fire and a blaze lit Peter’s face, a servant girl called him out. Hey, you’re with that Galilean! I know you!
That moment in Caiaphas’ courtyard marked the greatest crisis of Peter’s life. He must have relived the scene over and again, wishing to snatch back his words.
“I don’t know Him!” He spit out not once, but three times. Just hours before, he said to Jesus, I’ll die with you, Master! Others will turn away, Lord, but I won’t.
Somewhere in the night, a rooster stretched its neck and punctuated his failure. In that terrible moment, Peter looked over his shoulder and caught the eye of the One who loved him more than life, passing through the courtyard on His way to the cross.
That moment between sinner and Savior hung in the air like a framed picture.
Peter turned his face from the fire and wept. What burned more? The acrid smoke that blew into his eyes or the conviction of sin that pierced his heart?
Go ahead and be hard on Peter. Talk about how impulsive he was or how he shot off his mouth. But something happened that changed Peter between the devastating moment by this fire and when he stood with the Lord by another fire a couple mornings later.
In those days in-between, Peter’s guilt could have driven him to the cynical edge. (What was I thinking to believe He was the Christ, anyway?) He could have run, never to return. His heart could have hardened with unbelief. For sure, if you don’t deal with sin, it can drive you to an awful place.
But that’s not the Peter we meet three days later rushing into Jesus’ empty tomb, or the Peter who throws himself into the lake to get to Jesus, or the Peter who Jesus pulls aside in private conversation and restores to friendship and ministry. Did they speak of that awful moment by the fire? That’s between them.
What we do know is Peter’s crisis took him to the right place with God. Sin, rightly understood, prompted repentance. And repentance turned him around to meet Grace. Even after failure, Peter returned to the Lord with a restored heart, stronger, more humble, ready for God to take him somewhere new.
If you’ve ever thought, “I’ve gone too far” . . . let Jesus’ heart for restoration help you get up again. It’s worth it. Just ask Peter.