But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. – Mark 14:71-72
Though all of the disciples abandoned Jesus (despite professing they would die with him), Peter’s betrayal has a stronger impact and Mark gives it greater visibility in the story. This is partly due to his avid denial of even knowing Jesus, the calling of curses upon himself, and his subsequent brokenness. Almost immediately Peter weeps bitterly with remorse for what he did – his own conscience giving the rebuke. In this candid moment, we get a glimpse into the pressure fear places on our integrity when faced with ridicule, torture and possible death for our beliefs.
What we often fail to consider in this story is that Peter was not just Jesus’ disciple. He was also his friend. Peter abandoned his friend and had to watch his friend suffer terribly on the cross, alone.
Can we accept that we commit the sins of Peter, just in a slightly different form and time? Our relationship to God can be defined in various categories – forgiven sinner, servant, disciple, child, friend – and we have failed in these categories. In subtle or obvious ways, we’ve all denied Jesus at some point. The hope we have is the hope of a King and a friend who forgives, restores and appoints as his ambassadors those guilty of the most abhorrent betrayals. In this, those who turn back can still find a lasting and abiding peace. I am encouraged knowing I have not only a King who pronounces the record clean, but also a friend who is willing to call me ‘friend’ again.