Peter’s Misunderstanding of Jesus
One of the most well known stories in the New Testament is the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus during Jesus’ trial before the Jewish council. The backstory is just as well known. At the eve of Jesus’ arrest, Jesus and his entourage are enjoying Passover. There was much eating and drinking taking place and it’s safe to assume there was great conversation taking place besides what we find recorded in our Gospels. However, the Gospels seem to highlight one particular conversation that took place during the feast. Jesus told his closest friends that they would all depart or run when things would go bad for him and the group. Peter, of course, disagrees with Jesus and throws everyone under the bus by declaring that he would never leave and would be with Jesus, even if it meant death.
We know how it went down. Peter looked the fool.
What stands out to me in this story is not the “prophetic” statement of Jesus or even the denial of Peter but something entirely different.
While Jesus is on trial before the Jewish leaders, Peter was likewise on trial and failed. He completely acted the coward when asked if he was connected to Jesus. However, I think we don’t see what is really going on in this story nor with Peter. You see Peter is not just a coward who lacked courage to die with Jesus but instead when we read this story of Peter, we should in place see ourselves. This is why the story made it in the Gospels. Peter is not just the “voice of the early, successful moving church” but in some ways, he is also the “voice of all humanity”.
Here is how: When Peter is first associated with that “Nazarene, Jesus” by the servant girl, Peter utters these cryptic words in Mark’s version, “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about.” Peter didn’t simply deny Jesus; Peter did not understand Jesus! That is the point of this story! The Gospel writer, Mark, is historically associated as the voice of Peter himself as he was a close confidant of Peter during his ministry. Many assume that Peter had great influence over the details of this Gospel. Peter, through Mark, is retelling his denial in such a way to tell the masses that he denied Jesus because he simply did not get who Jesus was or where Jesus was going with this kingdom of God mission. We must remember that Peter was no different than other Jews waiting for God to fix their land and situation in that he was waiting for a divine movement that would exalt Israel to the top of the world. In longing for this, Peter must have thought that Jesus was going to accomplish this, in some way, for the Jewish people. But when Jesus is arrested and begins being flogged and brutalized, Peter could no longer see Jesus as the Messiah, God’s answer to the Jewish problem. Jesus was not who Peter expected and therefore, Peter simply denied Jesus because he legitimately did not know who Jesus was.
That is, until after the Resurrection.
This is our story too.
It is not until we experience some sort of resurrection, like Peter, that we begin to see the truth of who Jesus is. This changed the game for Peter. It is why he is believed to have gone to death for Jesus years later because once he understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing in the world, especially after His death, Peter was willing to die for Jesus.
Here is what the story challenges of us: In what ways do are we misunderstanding Jesus? Do we see Him for who He is and not what we wish He would be?
- Brett Dayton