Jesus is led from the Garden by the force sent to arrest Him; He is taken to the courtyard at the home of the High Priest and held there. Peter follows at a discreet distance and quietly joins a group of people gathered around a fire in the courtyard. It would be hard for anyone to say for certain why Peter was there, other than to see what would happen to Jesus, but in due course he was recognized, first by a servant girl and then two more times. Each time someone spoke up about his identity, Peter denied ever having known Jesus.
And then the rooster crowed.
According to Luke’s narrative, Peter found himself looking right into the eyes of the Lord at that moment: He had succumbed to the temptation Jesus had warned him about, and the prediction that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed had come true.
Peter was devastated and rushed out of the courtyard and wept “bitterly”.
This is the point where I am supposed to ask if we too would deny Jesus when the going gets tough, and where you say ‘no way’… but I won’t… because there is really no way to place ourselves in Peter’s circumstances honestly. It’s kind of a funny thing, we can look back at the story of the disciples from start to finish, and find all kinds of fault with them. We can comment, as all of us have, on how they didn’t always “get it” when Jesus taught them. We can ask how they could see so many miracles and then still have questions. We can be critical all day long about the things they might have done or said, but the reality of the situation is that they are us; we are every bit as clueless, stubborn and silly as they were.
Yes, it is true that they had the advantage of being in the physical presence of Jesus and actually bearing witness to His miracles. Yet in spite of that, they had no idea how the story was going to end, even though Jesus told them several times. We must recognize that the ending of the story ran completely counter to everything they had been taught and had known… and people rising from their graves are nothing if not foreign to all of us.
We who know how the story ended and all that happened after that are still bound by the things we have been taught, the things we have seen and the things we think we know. Very often, this makes us even more clueless that the disciples were. I think that if we are honest about it, had we been in the same position as Peter was, we would have done the same thing; or we wouldn’t have been in the courtyard at all.
During this time, the soldiers guarding Jesus had a bit of fun with Him before daybreak and the momentous events that would follow.