Peter Denies Jesus and is forgiven


Peter Denies Jesus (and Gets Breakfast in Return)

Chris Pennington

7 mins

“Et tu, Brute?”

Julius Caesar’s near-final words after being literally backstabbed by his protege and ‘friend’ is typically translated as “You too, Brutus?” in the iconic William Shakespeare play.

Whether that betrayal was just in a play or it actually happened to real-life Caesar may not matter. What matters is we still see this kind of betrayal in our lives today (though hopefully not as graphic).

Furthermore, it’s given me a haunting realization.

I’m Brutus, and it’s Jesus I’m stabbing.

Et tu, Christopher?

Okay, I’ll calm the melodrama self-shaming for a moment. And I’ll even cut myself some slack and say it’s a trait in my genes. From Adam and Eve to King David to Peter and Judas - our human history is littered with the betrayal of God.

It’s a dominant trait in our DNA. At some point, we’ve chosen a life outside of the one God designed for us. We’ve betrayed him.

And even if we decided to “accept” Jesus - to turn our life around, to stop sinning, to quit doing ‘X’ and start doing ‘X’…we’ve never found the right formula for perfection, have we?

We also might be living a life we know isn’t right but don’t know how to climb out of the hole. Or a life we know isn’t right and don’t care to move. Or a life we wouldn’t define as right or wrong, and we don’t care if we are “betraying God” or not.

No matter our story, and whether it’s our greatest want or buried somewhere deep - I believe the desire to connect with God is in all of us. And the mismanagement of our mess - not often the mess itself - gets in the way of an honest, life-giving relationship with Him.

That’s right. I think it’s the steps following our betrayal of God, maybe not the betrayal itself, are what most determine our baseline intimacy and feeling with him.

Betraying Best Friends

You’re not alone. For a three-year stretch, Peter (and Judas), some of Jesus’ best friends, committed some of the most public betrayals of God humanity has ever seen. Yet, one believed forgiveness awaited them, and the other didn’t.

Let’s look there to find a path to reconciliation with God when we betray our faith (which, for me, is every day).

You might know these accounts, but I’ll give you a refresher.

Judas’ Betrayal (With a Kiss)

Judas seemed to be boiling with some resentment towards the end of Jesus’ life (John 12:4-6), and for a bunch of theoretical reasons, decided to sell out his mentor for 30 pieces of silver (about $250 in today’s currency, depending on who you ask, which ain’t nothin!)

He then gave away the location of Jesus (who wasn’t hiding, necessarily) to the religious officials (Luke 22:1-6), who then arrest and bring Jesus to crucifixion. Judas led the literal charge to find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and kissed Jesus on the cheek to signal to the soldieres which one he was.

Peter Denies Jesus (With a Disguise)

Peter’s story comes right after Judas’, and though he doesn’t proactively hand over Jesus to death, his silence (or passivity) is deafening.

When Jesus is arrested and put on trial, Peter follows close by but keeps himself recluse. I like to think he had a fake mustache on, but they all likely had facial hair back then, so how did anyone ever try and blend in?

On three occasions (Luke 22:54-62), people attempt to identify Peter as a friend of Jesus, but Peter denies knowing his mentor. He even curses the final accuser. He let Jesus go alone to his grave and made sure everyone knew he was no friend of his.

The Fork in the Road

Woof. Imagine those hours for Jesus, where after years of investing in and loving these dear friends, they deny his existence and get paid off for him to get brutally tortured and killed.

That’s most people’s villain origin story.

Both of these men betrayed Jesus. They both had two options, the same two options we have today when we betray Jesus:

Will they trust their feelings of shame and guilt, thinking they are too far gone or broken to return to God? Or, will they trust their God, who longs to pour out his grace on them?

Judas chose the former path. He saw what he had done and knew he was in the wrong. But he thought his story was over. He thought there was no way back. He thought Jesus was done with him. He chose death - literally, by suicide that same day (Matthew 27:3-5).

Peter chose the latter path. He saw what he had done and knew he was in the wrong. But he knew his story was still being written. He knew there was a way back. He knew Jesus was still for him. He chose life - by sprinting to Jesus the next time he saw him, knowing his God would redeem him.

God did (if you didn’t know). After Jesus is resurrected, he finds the disciples out fishing, doing the only thing they ever knew how to do pre-Jesus. When Peter sees Jesus on the shore, he jumps out of the boat and swims to him immediately (John 21:1-14).

We see no hesitation from Peter. No internal wondering if he will be met with a punch to the face. Only trust in the character of Jesus that he knew.

Jesus’ response? He makes Peter breakfast. Seriously. Okay, not an omelette tough (they had just caught some fish, remember?). After eating, He restores Peter and affirms him of his calling (John 21:15-19).

All-Knowing, All-Loving, Always

To add to the radical grace of God from this story, Jesus knew Judas and Peter would betray him. He tells them to their face it will happen before it even happens (Matthew 26:23-25, Matthew 26: 31-35).

And he still was ready to extend grace.

Jesus sees your story of betrayal in full. Your wayward past. Your unfaithful present. Your future where you will undoubtedly go wayward and be unfaithful. And He still offers you what he has always offered: a chance at redemption.

And redemption is not dependent on our faithfulness. Peter didn’t have to do Jesus’ laundry for a month, go on a crazy diet or memorize the Old Testament to regain his favor. He just had to believe that forgiveness was available to him - that it always had been and always would be.

All he had to do was run to Jesus on the beach.

Our Moment of Truth

Rather than wallowing in shame or ignoring our brokenness - will we run to Jesus on the beach, believing we will be accepted? Will we trust that we don’t have to be defined by our worst mistake but can be defined by our identity as Jesus’ daughter or son?

How close were Judas and Jesus, actually? Did Judas know Jesus’ loving and gracious nature enough for it to be second nature? Was he truly unsure of how Jesus would respond?

Peter wasn’t unsure. He knew Jesus well. He made sure he did. And in the most pivotal moment of his life, he failed. But because of how well he knew Jesus, he knew he could return home.

Do I know Jesus in this way? Do you?

All you have to do is turn to Him. Run to the shore. He’s ready, waiting without judgment, and probably will even make you breakfast (though it might be fish, if you’re okay with that).

Chris Pennington
Meet the author

Chris Pennington

Hi. I'm Chris. I'd like to think I'm an open book, which usually consists of useless hockey knowledge, Cajun food and a love of cats. Ask me about the time I broke the law to meet LeBron.

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