Will we deny Jesus, or deny ourselves?
Judas betrayed Jesus which led to Jesus’ arrest – “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’ And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?’ Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, ‘You are not also one of His disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not!’ One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’ Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.” (John 18: 12-27)
Jesus had predicted both His betrayal and Peter’s denial of Him – “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going? Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’ Jesus answered Him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’” (John 13: 36-38)
What may lead us to deny Jesus like Peter did? No doubt, when Peter denied Jesus, the cost of Peter identifying himself with Jesus may have been very great. Peter may have thought that he would be arrested and killed if he had been honest about being one of Jesus’ disciples. What keeps us from identifying ourselves with Jesus? Is the cost just too high for us to pay? Would we rather travel an easier road?
Consider what Warren Wiersbe has written – “Once we have identified with Jesus Christ and confessed Him, we are part of a war. We did not start the war; God declared war on Satan (Gen. 3: 15)…The only way a believer can escape conflict is to deny Christ and compromise his witness, and this would be sin. Then the believer would be at war with God and with himself. We will be misunderstood and persecuted even by those who are the closest to us, yet we must not allow this to affect our witness. It is important that we suffer for Jesus’ sake, and for righteousness’s sake, and not because we ourselves are difficult to live with…Each believer must make the decision once and for all to love Christ supremely and take up his cross and follow Christ…To ‘carry the cross’ does not mean to wear a pin on our lapel or put a sticker on our automobile. It means to confess Christ and obey Him in spite of shame and suffering. It means to die to self daily…There is no middle ground. If we protect our own interests, we will be losers; if we die to self and live for His interests, we will be winners. Since spiritual conflict is inevitable in this world, why not die to self and let Christ win the battle for us and in us? After all, the real war is inside – selfishness versus sacrifice.” (Wiersbe 33)
After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter’s fellowship with Him was restored. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. The first two times Jesus used the Greek verb agapao for love, meaning a deep divine love. The third time Jesus used the Greek verb phileo, meaning a love between friends. Peter responded all three times with the verb phileo. In his humiliation, Peter could not respond to Jesus’ inquiry by using the stronger word for love – agapao. Peter knew that he loved Jesus, but was now more aware of his own weaknesses. God refocused Peter on His ministry by telling Peter – ‘feed My sheep.’
Identifying ourselves with Jesus brings about rejection and persecution, but God’s strength is sufficient to carry us through!
Wiersbe, Warren W., The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007.