What If Peter Had Not Denied Jesus?

There are those invocations we make that are lacking in efficacy and for that, we ought to thank God. Take the cock-crow experience of Peter. When he was called out as a follower of Christ Peter rained curses on himself in very vehement denial. (Matthew 26:73-75) It’s not exactly a far-fetched scenario. Some, for example, invoke the wrath of Sango, Yoruba god of thunder to attest to the veracity of their declarations. The vernacular rendering of Peter’s denial would probably go something like this: “If I have ever set my eyes on this Jesus man, may Sango strike me dead!” By the way, Sango is the same guy named Zeus in Greek mythology. He’s Amadioha to Igbos in south-eastern Nigeria. Demons can be very brand savvy. They market themselves by different names in different climes and dispensations. But we seem to be getting ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a little.


Peter was a most interesting character. Very forward and insecure, he was a bundle of paradoxes. He loved pre-eminence yet was humble in equal measure. He was brave but also cowardly. This was a man who sliced off a guy’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus yet would go on to deny that same Jesus with the same degree of passion. Of course pulling out his sword was a foolish thing to do. (John 18:10) He was facing trained killers with their native weapon. How can fisherman Peter face a platoon of soldiers? And it’s only in movies that one guy takes out an entire phalanx of soldiers. In real life he’s butchered.

The denial of Jesus was one example of Peter’s cowardice. There was that other incidence in which Paul confronted him over his withdrawal from eating with non-Jews when the friends of James showed up. (Galatians 2:11-13) He wasn’t racist, just hypocritical. He got caught in the web of the nationalistic fervour of the early disciples who wrongly assumed Jesus would remain an exclusive Jewish asset. Yet he would go on to acknowledge personal limitation about theology. When it came to the sophistication of the Gospel, he readily gave kudos to Paul. Though one must agree with Peter some of the stuff Paul wrote were rather complicated for simple minds. (2 Peter 3:16)

We’re told in the narrative of the trial of Jesus that the accent of Peter betrayed him. “A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” (Matthew 26:73 NLT) Galileans were the passionate revolutionary types, whereas Judeans were more politically savvy and conservative. “Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying — I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75 NLT) But how did things get to that cockcrow?


It all started at the Last Supper. At table Jesus predicted the betrayal of Judas. By this time Judas had struck a deal with the political opponents of Jesus. Jesus broke bread with the disciples and after the meal they proceeded to the Mount of Olives. This was right after the singing of hymn, so we do know Jesus sang in his lifetime. Jesus made the startling prediction they would all desert him that night. Our friend Peter would, of course, have none of it. Before Jesus had completed the sentence he interjected, “Even if everyone else falls to pieces on account of you, I won’t.” (Matthew 26:33 MSG) “Don’t be so sure,” Jesus replied. “This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 26: 34 MSG) But Peter upped the ante: “Even if I had to die with you, I would never deny you.” (Matthew 26:35 MSG) He wasn’t the only one that said that actually. All the disciples said the same thing. They obviously didn’t know themselves, just like many of us don’t know ourselves. They had all that religious boasting going on but when the test of their faith came, they all scampered. Tests and trials bring out the unknown us.

Well, the story is well known. Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed as predicted. That was a lesson in humility – for Peter and us. Remember that guy Peter cut off his ear when they came to arrest Jesus? Well, a relative of that guy was one of those who challenged Peter about his affiliation with Jesus. Turned out he was part of the crowd that came to arrest Jesus. He had seen Peter with Jesus that very night, yet Peter kept lying: “Meanwhile, Simon Peter was back at the fire, still trying to get warm. The others there said to him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” He denied it, “Not me.” One of the Chief Priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again, Peter denied it. Just then a rooster crowed.” (John 18:25-27 MSG) Sometimes, Bible stories are like movies! That rooster wasted no time saying, “Ah Peter, I gat you!”

Funny thing was at that last supper Jesus had said something ominous concerning Peter: “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you do not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.” (Luke 22:31-32 MSG) But Peter in his characteristic manner tried to bluff his way through that prophecy: “Peter said, “Master, I’m ready for anything with you. I’d go to jail for you. I’d die for you!” (Luke 22:33 MSG) Jesus responded, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.” (Luke 22:34 MSG)

What if Peter hadn’t denied Jesus? The man would never have come to the end of himself. He was self-confident and overrated himself. Suddenly, he realised he had a major character flaw. He wasn’t as loyal as he’d imagined. When push came to shove he opted for self-preservation. That revelation broke Peter and he wept bitterly in realisation. (Luke 22:62) He gave up on ministry after that, went back to his fishing business. It would take Jesus going after him to reconfirm his calling and ministry. Jesus got him back on track. (John 21: 15-17) Though to be fair, he did love Jesus. He would eventually die for Jesus. Tradition has it he was nailed upside down in Rome. The difference between his first boast and the eventual fulfilment of his promise to die for Jesus was the simple realisation he could do nothing without the enablement of the Spirit. We can do nothing in ourselves. (John 15:5)

When we’re confronted with our humanity, it can be so devastating, so much so we give up on God’s programme for our lives. Some give up on ministry, like Peter. Yet God never rescinds his calling. He knows we’re mere men. “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalms 103:13-14 NLT) “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call]. (Romans 11:29 AMP) If you’re a minister of the gospel and have given up on ministry because of a mistake or exercise of poor judgment, God is calling you back. Go back to ministry. God hasn’t rescinded your calling. He never will. (Romans 11:29 AMP) And if you’re a child of God and that one mistake has caused you to “backslide”, God is calling you back. (Romans 11:29 AMP) Your Father wants you. He never stopped loving you. Not for one moment. (Psalm 136:26 AMP)

Here is the simple conclusion: “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being over-confident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation].” (1 Corinthians 10:12 AMP) We must be humble. As the Message Bible puts it, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 MSG)

If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me Father. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.

If you’re a child of God and that one mistake has caused you to “backslide”, God is calling you back. Click To Tweet