They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and
‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power,’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
I suppose there will always be people who can’t or won’t accept who Jesus is. I mean, if they didn’t believe it when it came from His own mouth, why on earth would they believe documents that are thousands of years old? But do you see how Jesus treats these non-believers? He doesn’t try to force them to believe, or get in great debates with them. He simply proclaims the Good News and leaves the ball in their court.
It’s hard for us to do that. Once we start evangelizing to someone, we feel like they are our personal responsibility until they’re saved. We turn them into a project, beating it into them like a dead horse. But Jesus knew He couldn’t force somebody to be a believer, that only God could change their hearts. Now, I’m not saying tell someone about Jesus once and then ignore them forever. It may take a little more time and effort than that. But we do need to stop these endless, pointless debates that just turn mean and nasty, exactly what Jesus would not want said and done in His name.
Notice how differently Peter acts around non-believers. In his fear of hate and nonacceptance, he denies he even knows Jesus. While most of us do not go quite that far (but then, most of us aren’t in such danger), we do find ourselves in similar situations. What do we do to fit in? We are often willing to say and do things we normally wouldn’t, things that are un-Christ-like. While we don’t deny Jesus, we may avoid talking about Him. That’s just not right. If we can’t be ourselves and be accepted, we don’t need to be friends with them. Our relationship with God is far more important than our relationship with them.
In an attempt to justify this sort of behavior, many Christians will mention that they are trying to be all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22). “Once I get in with them,” they say, “I’ll start sharing the gospel.” That’s all fine, so long as you aren’t sacrificing your relationship with God to do so. There is a fine line between being yourself, but just being careful how you mention Jesus at first, and being a completely different person who appears to have no relationship with Jesus at all. Anyway, if they don’t see how Jesus is actively working in your life and making you better, they’re not going to want anything to do with it when you finally bring it up.