The last hours of Jesus’ life beginning with His agony in the garden and culminating in His death are known as His passion. The word “passion” as it relates to Christ comes to us from the Latin and is a technical term used for the suffering He endured at the end of His life. Part of the suffering He endured was the abandonment of His followers in His time of crises. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew tells us “…all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Mat 26:56). This was predicted by Zechariah the prophet, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (see Zech 13:7; Mat 26:31). In particular, Jesus foretold the fact that Peter would deny three times that he was a disciple of Jesus (John 13:38).
The fulfillment of Jesus’ words predicting Peter’s three denials is found in John 18:15-27. What is fascinating is the arrangement of these denials. The first one is found in verses 15-18 while the second and third are narrated in verses 25-27. In between is the account of Jesus being questioned by Annas the high priest (19-24). Why? Perhaps, the comparison is being made between Peter’s failure to follow through on his confession (13:37), and Jesus’ faithful to His. In fact, Paul uses Jesus’ witness of a good confession before Pontius Pilate as an encouragement for Timothy to endure hardship (1Ti.6:13-14).
Peter’s failure and Christ’s forgiveness (John 21) indicates there is hope for all of us. May we resolve to never deny Christ whether by our actions or words. But may we know that the same grace that forgave Peter is available to us!