New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I used to think that Peter was kind of a jerk for denying Jesus not once; but three times on that fateful night when Jesus was taken.
Peter for his part, did it because his life was in danger. Not that it makes it right, but, I guess there could be stupider reasons. Like, oh, I don’t know… CARING ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT US and TRYING TO BE COOL and BECAUSE WE’RE JUST NOT FEELIN’ IT.
Peter denied Jesus three times in what, maybe a 6-8 hour span. I know that I’ve broken that sad record. I don’t even think I can make my denials in a nice Godly number like three. Maybe in the same time period, I could have denied like 45 times, or perhaps 66.6. Especially if my life was in danger. But even though it’s not, I still deny, in subtler, but nonetheless important ways. I deny Jesus in my heart through doubt. I deny Him in my actions, through sin, through taking the easy way out and asking for forgiveness even while the sin is taking place. I deny Him through omission; by passing up good opportunities to serve or speak out. It seems that I deny more than I accept.
Don’t be too hard on Peter. Don’t put things past yourself. The conscience works only so well. The unaided conscience is like cough medicine for the disease of rebellion. Maybe it will work for the outward symptoms. If you’re very lucky. But you still have a cold. Your lungs are still messed up, your heart is still in the wrong place. It is only when we partake in the Great Sacrifice that the healing process truly begins. The rest is just cosmetic.