Jesus’ Love for Deniers


Peter had been following Christ as one of His disciples for years. From that early moment by the seashore when Christ first called Peter (Matt. 4:18-20), Peter had followed Jesus faithfully—until his moment of denial. Peter loved Jesus. He prided himself on the fact that he was committed to Christ. So, what went wrong? How did Peter get to the point where he denied knowing his teacher, whom he loved?

Jesus not only foresees Peter’s denial, but He also foresees Peter’s restoration. He calmly refers to “when you have turned back.” Peter can’t even imagine that he will have to turn back from anything or that his faith will fail for any reason, so he ostentatiously proclaims, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (v. 33). Jesus predicts Peter’s failure and Peter counters Jesus’ prediction with a promise of unwavering devotion. Jesus responds, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (v. 34 NIV). Jesus’ statement is so devastatingly matter of fact. “No, Peter. You will not fight to the death. You will cower; you will deny. And the sound of a simple animal will be what brings you to your senses and to your knees.”

We’d like to think that Peter had a moment of weakness, that somehow he forgot himself for just a second, that he was scared, that he wasn’t thinking straight. But perhaps the truth of the matter is that Peter was finally expressing what he had deeply feared or felt all along. Maybe he finally came clean with himself and those around him. His confession, “I don’t know him,” was true. Peter didn’t really know Jesus. He didn’t yet really know forgiveness; he didn’t really know grace. Peter was addicted to achieving. He loved to be the one right next to Jesus. He was outspoken in his devotion to Him. Peter was confident of his commitment to Christ. He didn’t really understand that Christ’s commitment to Peter was ultimately all that mattered. God’s covenant toward Peter is what kept Peter close, not his own willpower. With the heat of shame burning in his face, Peter stood by the fire and called down curses just to prove to all those who could hear him that he was not a follower of Christ. Then the rooster called him out. And Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

Peter came to the end of himself. He came to the end of his own good opinion of himself. He came to the end of achieving. I am sure you have felt the bitterness of being disappointed with yourself. I know I have. Why would I do that? Why would I say that? Why would I react like that? These are words to the tune of an old song we are all familiar with. Peter thought he was better, and we think we are better than that as well. But the truth is we are denying sinners in need of a faithful Savior. The astonishingly lovely fact is that we have access to that Faithful Savior. Our access—our acceptance by Him—isn’t based on our faithfulness; it’s based on His.

he loved them

Adapted from He Loved Them by Jessica Thompson (© 2023). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

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