I can only imagine the turmoil that Peter must have gone through the night of Jesus’ arrest. He had just sworn to stick with Jesus even if was he killed, to never abandon him even if everyone else fled. And I’m sure he meant it. But then he watched as Judas brought a small army to arrest Jesus. He stood by in disbelief as Jesus not only refused to let the disciples defend him but healed the ear that Peter had lopped off of a soldier while trying to protect Jesus. Peter watched as his master, who could speak and have the winds and waves obey him, who could call out in a loud voice and raise the dead, who could push his attackers down with the power of his voice (according to John 18:1-6), Peter watched as his incredibly powerful master allowed these soldiers to seize him and haul him off.
That night as Peter followed Jesus from a distance, I can only imagine the things that must have been going through Peter’s mind as he watched Jesus mishandled and mistreated. Was this really the Messiah after all? The Messiah was supposed to become a conqueror, not allow himself to be arrested and tried by people he knew would rig the jury and seal his fate! The Messiah should have defended himself from his attackers, not allowed them to capture him! Was Peter wrong? It is no wonder to me that when Peter was recognized by a serving girl he responded, “Woman, I don’t know him!” (Luke 22:57,NIV). Perhaps, in that moment, Peter didn’t think he did know him after all. Or when Peter told the next person who recognized him, “Man, I am not one of them!” (Luke 22:58). Peter might well have been thinking that following a Messiah who allowed himself to be arrested was not what he thought he was signing up for.
But when Peter denied Jesus the third time, Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. The Peter remembered the word the lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” (Luke 22:60-61, NIV). Into the middle of Peter’s questions and doubts, into the middle of his fear and insecurity, the rooster crowed, and Jesus used Peter’s own denial to prove that he still was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered that Jesus had spoken into Peter’s future, that Jesus had known Peter better than Peter knew himself. And Peter, not understanding how but knowing that Jesus was the Messiah after all, went out and wept bitterly for denying him.
No matter what your doubts and questions, no matter what the surprises God has allowed you to experience or the disillusionment you have experienced because your expectations weren’t met, Jesus wants to reaffirm today that he is your Messiah, that he is the Son of God who came to save you. And while he may not meet all of our uninformed expectations, he is God enough to use even our failures to reaffirm his identity to us, to take the weaknesses in our lives and prove who he is through them.
We all have unmet expectations. God never does all of the things that we expect or want him to do. And while those unanswered questions and incomprehensible heartbreaks may threaten to overwhelm us, God is big enough to handle our doubts and our questions, to speak right into the middle of our troubling circumstances if we allow him to. If Jesus used Peter’s own denials to prove himself, he can work through your failures, too.