The Brokenness of Peter

We are meditating on the drama of the hours before the crucifixion of Christ (scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts), and today, especially, the three-time denial of Peter the disciple, soon to be apostle. Before he can become an apostle, the Lord allows him to become broken at his failure to be all that both he and Christ wants him to be. After already denying Christ twice, pressure builds again and he caves under it:

73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75).

Luke gives us more insight into what finally broke Peter’s heart and causing him to weep bitterly:

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:59-62).

How painful it was to hear the cock crow a second time and be immediately reminded of Jesus’ words that, before the cock crows, Peter would deny his Lord three times. In God’s sovereignty, the very same instant that Peter heard the cock crowing was the same time when Jesus was brought out of the house of Annas, to be taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas. As soon as the words of his third denial left Peter’s lips, the Lord looked at Peter and their eyes connected. There was no accusation in Jesus’ eyes, only sadness for Peter. The Greek word translated “looked” (v. 61) is emblepo. This word describes a fixed look, almost a stare. This look from Jesus broke Peter’s heart; he remembered all his protestations that he was capable of standing in the hour of trial, but instead, he failed miserably. He went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. The verb “wept” describes a weeping, mournful cry like those who are grieving the death of a loved one. He was brokenhearted at his failure.

Why is Peter’s failure recorded for us in such depth? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire each of the Gospel writers to focus on Peter’s denial? It is because God’s purpose is for a broken and contrite heart. We are not to focus so much on Peter’s failure as we are to his brokenness and repentance. How quickly he repented. We may never have denied Jesus with our lips in the way that Peter did, but I am sure that, at one time or another, we have denied Him with our actions. This passage is recorded for us to show us God’s mercy and complete forgiveness. God often allows us to experience pain, for it is an excellent teacher. Often, it is only when our pain makes us hit rock bottom and we are broken of our pride and self-adequacy, that we are brought to a place where we look to our Savior.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Peter was brought to a place of brokenness. The place of our brokenness is the place where God can step in and save and heal us. God’s school of training is more than Bible college and more than head knowledge. His training often includes brokenness and contriteness of heart. He molds and shapes our character through everyday situations. Some of the situations can be very trying, e.g. the death of a family member, a financial need, an impatient child. The list is endless.

The LORD will judge [for and on behalf of] his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free (Deuteronomy 32:36).

While we have adequate resources to fight our own battles, the Lord lets us carry on until we come to the place of brokenness and an end to fleshly ways and self. The Spirit will bring us to a place where we find ourselves devoid of help, having no strength left to accomplish what needs to be done, having no back-up plan, and no one but God to call to for help. That is the point at which God steps in to fight our battles for us. When we are weak, then we are strong in Him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).  May it be so with you, dear reader.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas