Given that Peter was to become the leader of the church, the rock on which it would be built, it’s remarkable that all four gospel writers tell us of his blustering ‘even if all the others run, I’ll never let you down’ at the Last Supper, and of his three denials of even knowing Jesus before the next day dawned.
Luke includes a couple of details that the others don’t, and which I think bring the story even more powerfully to life.
First there’s Jesus’ prayer for Peter in 22:31-32,
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat,but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
Then there’s the moment of Peter’s last denial that he is a friend of Jesus,
At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter.
I can’t help but imagine what passed between Peter and Jesus in that instant, as their eyes met. What sorrow, disappointment and love from Jesus? What shame and anger at himself from Peter? No wonder he ‘went out and wept bitterly’.
It looks as though Jesus’ prayer that Peter’s faith may not fail has gone unanswered – but that’s only because we read the prayer with our own ideas about faith and failure in mind. It isn’t a prayer that Peter will never stumble or waver. It’s a prayer that he will turn back from failure and strengthen his brothers. It’s a prayer that Peter won’t give up just because he’s messed up.
Faith doesn’t stop us from falling. Sometimes it just keeps us getting up again.
Peter got up again. He didn’t hide away from the other disciples, or assume a few days later that the risen Jesus would have no more time for him. He came back, and his faith didn’t fail.
So if our faith seems to have fallen short, if we’ve messed up and feel that we’ve failed God, we can draw strength from Peter. As long as we don’t give up – as God doesn’t give up on us – our faith has not failed. Start again.