Peter Disowns Jesus
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. 68But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
69When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
A Full Restoration
Many of us have read this passage before, and are familiar with Peter’s rejection of Jesus. But the gospel of Mark actually omits a wonderful part of this story, which is the restoration of Peter. That section of the story is only included in the gospel of John, and is as follows:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Now, a strange similarity jumps out at us when we look at Peter’s rejection of Jesus, and his reinstatement by Jesus: Peter rejects ever knowing Christ three times, and three times, Jesus asks Peter if he truly loves him. This is no accident, and I’m sure that Peter was fully aware of the similarities – it must have stung him deeply to be reminded of his failure by Jesus himself.
Why does Jesus do this? Why couldn’t he just let it go, and not mention that whole, “You rejected me three times” thing? Why, instead, make it a point to reinstate Peter in the same way he failed?
I think this highlights a very important aspect of how God works in our lives – forgiveness is not the same as forgetfulness. Often we think that we have forgiven or have been forgiven when we just forget it ever happened, and it doesn’t hurt like before. As long as no one mentions this again, as long as I just forget it ever happened, that’s all we want. But this is not the kind of healing that God wants in our lives, the narcotic of forgetfulness. Instead, just like with Peter, he restores us through our pain and brokenness, sometimes in a way that forces us to journey through the things we have done wrong, through confession.
This is of course more personal and difficult than forgetfulness, but the difference is freedom. True forgiveness releases you from guilt and condemnation and allows you not just to move on with your life, but transforms those difficult moments into your greatest strengths – you are freed from your past. Forgetfulness can do nothing of the sort, as our past lingers in the back of our minds for years and years.
Rather than settling for forgetfulness, let us all strive for true forgiveness, and at the same time…true freedom.
1. Has there ever been a time where you mistook the feeling of forgetfulness for forgiveness – how did you come to realize this?
2. How does one pursue true forgiveness, rather than forgetfulness?
3. Is there a part of your life in which you need forgiveness and freedom? How can you begin this process, as exemplified above?