Game, Set, Match

Throughout this Gospel, we’ve seen our author, John, involve himself in a tiny bit of self-flattery and quite a lot of unflattering editorial comments regarding the other disciples. That’s what makes this Gospel so very real. It is a perfect blend of heaven and earth.

So, when it comes to Peter’s final flub with fidelity, it is somewhat surprising how straight forward and “sanitized” it is. We need to borrow some of the drama from other Gospels which give us a more roaring account of the scene. We shall begin with Matthew: One servant girl came up to him and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.” In front of everybody there, he denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” As he moved over toward the gate, someone else said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: “I swear, I never laid eyes on the man.” Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. “You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away.” Then he got really nervous and began swearing: “I don’t know the man!” ~Matthew 26:70-75

Having read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek I can assure you that there are times when the translators have bleached the colloquialisms of the ancients. Straightforward translations from King Saul of old, to the Saul who became Paul of New Testament fame, would cause a lot less nodding off in church! I’ve no ready list of popular swear words from the first century, but I believe it a safe bet that a fisherman who felt cornered had a ready and adequate supply of them. So, Peter swore and denied…What else? Now, back to John for a tidbit: One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. ~John 18:26,27 How about that? The newly earless and newly healed Malchus had a relative on the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane. He had witnessed his kin get skinned. You couldn’t buy a better witness than that.

But the most poignant ending of this sad scene comes from the pen of that ubiquitous observer, Luke. Somehow, Peter had been chased back into the view of the trial and he could see Jesus…and Jesus could see Peter. Luke gives us this heartbreaking snapshot: And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. ~Luke 22:61,62 Of course he did. This beautiful, simple, straight-shooting man had not lived up to his own ideals. It was at this place of brokenness that Jesus would soon do his best work. The admission, “I’m not all that” is the beginning of grace.