Following from our previous discussion on Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, the end of today’s reading finds Peter weeping bitterly, as he becomes aware that he has done the one thing he promised Jesus he would never do, in exactly the way that Jesus foretold he would. If you know the story, you know that restoration comes for Peter, in pretty short order too, but the sheer emotional weight of this moment dictates that we as readers owe it to Peter to stay with him in this moment of desolation.
Isn’t this the flip side of betrayal? I can do things my own way for a remarkably long time, but in the end, for me at least, there’s always a moment of being pulled up short. I have a tendency at such times to feel crushed. That isn’t too strong a word for it. I’m an emotional, feeling person. Often to my detriment. There have been several times I can distinctly remember where the realisation that something I was doing to protect myself, keep myself safe, or even make myself feel better has hurt others. I’d like to think I don’t deliberately set out to hurt people often, if at all, but still, the unintended consequence for me of self-serving or self-absorbed action is quite often that others suffer. I hate this. It renders any benefit I might have felt I received from the action which caused the hurt not just null and void, but in fact reverses it. Now everyone is hurt. I have let everyone down. I don’t deserve love. I’m a disappointment.
I hope you don’t feel like this too often, but I think it is a pretty common, honest human experience, if we are open to our emotions. I don’t know how Peter was feeling on this fateful day, but I have a sense that it was something like this. All that he had built the last years of his life upon was going up in flames, and rather than stand firm, he sought to save himself. What kind of a man did that make him.
And yet, he was to find later that the loving heart of God beat strongest for him in that very moment. I imagine his betrayal still hurt, but love would win in Peter’s life, and win him back again for God.
For now, though, all was darkness and despair. If you’re in that place today, do all you can to take courage. Don’t be defeated. Reach out to people around you. Don’t suffer alone or in silence. God is with you. He hears your cries, even if, right now, the idea that you might hear his feels extremely far-fetched.