By Benjamin Stubblefield, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Hank Williams captured in song a sentiment all of us probably have felt at some time: “I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
When things are going awfully wrong, and we can’t sleep or eat or even think, we feel what he sings: “I’ve never seen a night so long/ When time goes crawling by./ The moon just went behind a cloud/ To hide its face and cry.” Ol’ Hank — he knew how to turn a phrase.
This week’s passage includes grief, loneliness, desperation and tears. Jesus’ final friend, Peter, fails. And as Jesus’ eyes meet Peter’s, the Savior knows He is now alone, “rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3).
We are left to consider the question, “If Peter, ‘the rock,’ quits on Jesus in trial, what will I do?”
While John records that there was “another disciple” present during part of Jesus’ trial, Luke only mentions Peter (John 18:15).
Perhaps Luke is suggesting Peter is Jesus’ last link to those who love Him.
Luke gives us a small detail which becomes a harbinger of Peter’s eventual shame, namely, that he follows Jesus “at a distance.”
This is a time when Jesus needs advocacy and witnesses to testify to His character.
Yet Peter, who knows Him best, remains aloof when affiliation with Jesus appears difficult.
You and I have the advantage of knowing how this story works out, so we must learn from our brother’s example.
There will most certainly come seasons when loyalty to Jesus seems inopportune, maybe even dangerous.
It is in those moments when His disciples are called to follow, not at a distance, but at His heels.
The cover of darkness obscures Peter’s identity for a while, but in time others among the crowd there begin to recognize him, asking, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”
Three times Peter denies knowing Jesus, but they see through his lies. He was too closely linked to Christ for too long to convince people otherwise.
Christian, there is a lesson here in all this.
We can’t live two lives or, as Jesus puts it, serve two masters. We’ve got to live for Christ whether it’s convenient or costly.
The crowd was not going to let Peter get away with hypocrisy. And Jesus, as we’ll see, is not going to let him get away with it either.
Likewise, the Lord calls all of His people to go all in on His side and go all the way, to decide to follow Him — no turning back, no turning back.
The rooster crows, Jesus’ eyes meet Peter’s and the apostle weeps in shame and agony. No words. Just a look, and Peter knew he had failed.
I wonder what went through his mind.
He had made so many memories with Jesus, his friend and mentor. He had seen His miracles, shared His meals and been a travel companion for years now.
All that joy, faith and friendship must have come crashing down when his eyes met Christ’s.
Do you know that we will all, likewise, will be held to account?
There are no secret denials or disobedience, for there is a day when He will judge even the secrets of our hearts (Rom. 2:16).
I’m grateful to learn from my elder brother’s trial, but I’m so glad his failure wasn’t the end of his story. I’m so glad to know that, even though I will have trouble along the way, the Lord is gracious and compassionate, with patience for Peter and some for me too (Ex. 34:6).