Why did Peter deny Jesus three times?

You’re sitting at home reading the newspaper when the door comes off its hinges with a crash so loud that you jump out of your chair. “Put your hands up and don’t move,” yells the first officer of a SWAT team as he throws a cocked .357 magnum in the face.

“You have the right to remain silent,” says another as he grabs your wrists, puts them behind his back and puts the handcuffs on them.

Two hours later, at the police station, he is relieved to see his best friend enter the room. You know he can verify that you were with him earlier in the night when a man was shot and killed in a convenience store a block from his home.

“I don’t know this man,” says his friend.

Your mouth falls open in disbelief, but then you think this has to be a practical joke.

“Are you sure?” asks the detective.

“Absolutely!” he says.

Pointing to you, the detective says to your friend, “He says you are his best friend.”

After swearing, your friend says, “I’ve never seen it before in my life!” and leaves the room.

In some ways, this modern story illustrates the denial Jesus experienced from one of his closest disciples, but why?

“He thought he would never deny his teacher,” says 11-year-old Wes.

Wes, you are right. After eating the Passover meal, Jesus told his disciples that they would all be offended by him that very night. Peter said that others might be offended, but he did not (Matthew 26: 31-35). He even offered to give his life for Jesus (see John 13: 36-38).

“Peter forgot to have faith in Jesus,” says 7-year-old Kelsey. “He was weak,” explains 6-year-old Kyle. “He forgot that God was in control,” says 7-year-old Raha.

Like many of us, Peter took control of the situation using his own strength. He was unable to properly assess his own weakness. Feeling that the hour of his crucifixion was upon him, Jesus asked the disciples to pray with him. But three times, he found them sleeping.

Jesus endured only this hour of severe trials. Humanly speaking, Jesus was never more alone than when he looked at Peter after that third denial.

This story of the three continues after Jesus rose from the dead. In the third appearance of Jesus’ resurrection to his disciples, three times he asked Peter if he loved him.

“Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked Peter the first time.

By saying “more than these,” Jesus referred to Peter’s boast of loyalty only hours before he denied it three times. Peter responded, but did not claim that he loved Jesus more than the other disciples. His arrogance was gone.

Peter avoided professions of future loyalty. Now he loved Jesus, but he couldn’t trust himself to always be faithful.

Instead of degrading Peter, three times Jesus commissioned him with a new commission. The senior pastor needed someone to feed and care for his flock (the followers of Jesus), and this humiliated new Peter was the right man for the job.

As 6-year-old Dominique says, “Peter denied Jesus three times because he forgot that he had power in God.”

It is so easy to wonder how Peter could deny Jesus and never consider that we may be denying him every day in the decisions we make. Jesus could have so easily denied us entry into his kingdom of life by rejecting the cruel cross on which he bore our sins. Jesus longs for us to know him, not only as the door through which we enter his kingdom, but also as the Good Shepherd who leads us down the paths of righteousness.

Point to ponder: Jesus will never deny his people.

Scripture to Remember: “And I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Question to consider: Are you being faithful to God or are you denying Him?