And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:66-72 (ESV)
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Peter. He thought he had the inner fortitude to confess Jesus even when it could mean his hide. There are times when we all think that we can be confident to confess Christ, and then our old Adam comes out and our words and actions betray Him.
The ability to remain faithful is not within us. This may have been the lesson that Jesus had for Peter as well as for us. Whether we stand or fall in the faith is not reliant on on our own desire, willpower or merit. If Peter, the apostle, who walked and ate and lived with Jesus, could betray Him, who do we think we are?
The saint side of us (which is a gift of God, a result of God choosing us as His own) wants to cling to Jesus and wants to live for Him, even when it means our own personal discomfort or sacrifice. We as sinners want to be God and we insist on having our own desires fulfilled- our own personal comfort and our own advancement and benefit. It is inevitable that the saint and the sinner will have some skirmishes.
The apostle Paul discusses this struggle in Romans 7 – the things he wants to do he does not do, and the things he does not want to do, he does. It is the struggle we all have and will have as long as we live in this lifetime.
Yet God gives us the gift of repentance. He gives us the Good News that Jesus died for ALL of our sins- even the times when we are faithless, when we fail, when we outright break His law. No one is “too bad” for God’s grace and forgiveness.
Jesus forgave Peter and commended him to service and ministry even though Peter betrayed Him. We still sin and our actions betray Jesus every day. Even so, we are still, by faith in Jesus, by the grace of God, named and claimed as His own children.
Thankfully Jesus doesn’t just leave us to the consequences of our sins. We are baptized, washed, covered in His righteousness, because we believe He is who he said He is and that we trust that He is enough.