Peter’s close – knit relationship with Jesus proves that He longs for an intimacy with His followers – normal, everyday people, like Peter, and like you and me seeing how Jesus took an uneducated, sinful man and loved him infinitely gives us assurance. He can do this for us as well especially in this Easter festival equally.
After He rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter, “Do you love me?” When Peter said that he did love Jesus, the Lord commanded him, “feed my lambs… Tend my sheep” (Jn 21:16). Jesus was giving Peter the responsibility for caring for the Church and all its members.
However, Peter’s denial was partially on weakness, the weakness born of human frailty. After the last supper, Jesus took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to await His arrest. He told them to stay awake and pray while He went off to pray alone, when he returned to them, He found them sleeping.
He warned Peter to stay awake and pray because, although his spirit might be willing, his flesh was weak. But he fell asleep again, and, by the time the soldiers had come to arrest Jesus, it was too late to pray for the strength to endure the ordeal to come. Peter’s stretching forth his hands to cut off the ear (Mtt 26:51) portrays the willingness – more than willing, I would say eager to die on the field of battle, but was not willing to die in ignominy as His Lord. No doubt his failure to appropriate the only means to shore up his own weakness – prayer – occurred to him as was weeping bitterly after Hid denials.
But Peter learned his lesson about being watchful, and he exhorts us in 1peter 5:8, “Be on the alert, because your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Peter’s weakness had caused him to be “devoured” momentarily as he denied his Lord because he hadn’t been prepared through prayer and he underestimated his own weakness.
Another reason for Peter’s failure was fear. To his credit, although all others had fled (Mk 14:50), Peter still followed Jesus after His arrest, but he kept his distance so as not to be identified with Him (Mk 14:54). There’s no question that fear gripped him from the court yard, he watched Jesus being falsely accused, beaten, and insulted (Mk 14:57-66). Peter was afraid Jesus would die, and he was fearful for his own life as well.
The world hated Jesus, and Peter found that he was not prepared to face the ridicule and persecution that Jesus was suffering. Earlier, Jesus had warned His disciples as well as us today, “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18). Peter quickly found he wasn’t nearly as bold and courageous as he had proclaimed, and in fear he denied the one who had loved him.
“You are not one of His disciples are you?” The question caught Peter off guard. He was unprepared for the challenge – and not only did he deny Jesus, but he also told a lie in doing so Satan still uses this tactic. He knows that the mature Christian – if he is prepared he can often resist the devil, if he has his defenses set “prayer”. And so Satan attacks at a time and place when the Lord’s followers least expects it.
St Peter’s great love for Jesus made it possible for him to do everything that Jesus asked. The Lord asks the same of each of us Like Peter, we can use our strengths to continue his work of bringing love and peace to others. We can pray that Jesus will help us to overcome our weakness so that we can serve him every day. Jesus can and will work through us, as he did with Pete, the Rock of the Church.
Sem. Robert Bigabwarugaba
Katigondo National Major Seminary.
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