This is The Denial of Saint Peter, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. During passion week may these thoughts open our eyes to see the beauty of the gospel ever more clearly.
After all the greatness Jesus had shown of Himself, His healing power, the miracles, righteousness, that He is God in the flesh, how could anyone ever deny Him? Peter had just drawn his sword earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane to defend Jesus against the mob. He attacked an armed man, nearly killing him. But when Jesus is standing before the high priest for questioning, Peter denies him. He was asked if he was one of Christ’s followers and three, simple, sad words came out, “I am not” (John 18:17). Matthew recorded more of Peter’s words. When pressed he said, “I do not know what you mean,” then he swore and exclaimed, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:70-72).
Immediately a crowing rooster reminded Peter that Jesus had foretold just how he would deny. No doubt he shocked himself with his betrayal. How disgusted he must have felt with himself! He ran away and wept bitterly. Who wouldn’t have hated himself after doing that?
Every one of us has denied Jesus, some in ways similar to Peter, others in different ways. We all have been like sheep wandering away but that seems like such a passive denial, almost accidental. Seeing ourselves in Peter’s denial opens our eyes to the fact that we have all willfully denied what we know to be true. Jesus is God, Almighty, our Creator who has loved and blessed us with all good things, deserving all our love and adoration. Yet we have acted as if we don’t even know Him.
This is wretched. But is also compels us to see the full love of God for us in the gospel. Jesus endured our denial so that by faith in His atonement we will not be denied before God’s throne in heaven.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13