“And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75)
We all know the story. Jesus and the disciples are gathered together to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus predicts that that very night all of the disciples will fall away on account of him.
Peter protests that he will never fall away and then proclaims, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Then Jesus answered, “I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:33-34)
Later Jesus is arrested and taken to the house of the High Priest. Peter “follows at a distance” and warms himself by a fire in the courtyard. He is recognized as being one of the disciples, but he denies that he knows Jesus, not once, but three times. Luke reports that just as Peter was making the third denial, the rooster crowed and “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Then Peter, remembering the word the Lord had spoken, went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-62)
We can only imagine the extreme remorse and shame Peter must have felt. In spite of all his prideful bluster about how he would never fall away and go to jail or even to death with Jesus, he was intimidated by a servant girl and two others and denied three times that he ever knew Jesus.
Lest we become even slightly judgmental of Peter, we must stop and call to mind all of the times that our conduct has denied Jesus or his presence in us. The examples are numerous and varied -– anger, unforgiveness, and resentment; self-indulgence, drunkenness and sexual immorality; failures of integrity in deceit and gossip; failures of kindness, mercy and love; and sloth, laziness and apathy; to name only a few.
St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
I can certainly recall examples in my life that encompass several of these categories. While I have repented of these occasions and accept God’s forgiveness and mercy, I still regret them and have remorse for some of them. The good news is that God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) God not only forgives, but he forgets. His data base on our sins is wiped clean every time we repent. What a glorious promise this is for us!
As we proceed through this Holy Week and commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ with his terrible suffering and death, let us praise and thank God for his plan for reconciliation and salvation. By God’s immeasurable love for us, he became one of us in all aspects of our human existence, was willing to suffer and die for us, and gives us the promise of life forever with him through the power of his resurrection.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)