Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
I think it’s important to note that the Scribes and Pharisees had a hard time finding evidence against Jesus. In the end they persecute Him for calling Himself the Son of God, which was, of course, true. But they called it blasphemy. Not only did Jesus die sinless and innocent, He died wrongfully accused. It is part of what made His sacrifice so powerful and meaningful.
Poor Peter. He tried to do the right thing. He tried to stay near Jesus. But in the end he was too afraid. Not only does he deny Jesus, he does so with oaths and curses! And it’s easy to criticize him for it. But imagine being in his shoes. There are soldiers all around, soldiers who arrested Jesus and brought Him to those plotting to kill Him. For all Peter knew they would arrest and kill him too, just for being Jesus’s follower. It was brave of him to even go to that place, dangerous as it was. But, sadly, he was not brave enough to stand up for Jesus.
And yet, look who he goes on to be! Peter is practically the founder of the Church. In Acts he goes on to perform great miracles and to be a wise teacher. He goes on to write letters that eventually become books of the Bible. He made a terrible mistake, but Jesus forgave him for it and still used him to do great things. So it can be for us. I have a hard time letting go of my mistakes and forgiving myself for them. But if Jesus can forgive Peter for such a denial, He can surely forgive me. So there is no reason to not forgive myself. I need to move on from my mistakes so that I, too, can one day maybe do great (or at least good!) things.