Matthew 26:30-35 reads: After singing the Passover Hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Tonight you will all fall from your faith on my account; for it stands written: “I will strike the shepherd down and the sheep of his flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised again, I will go on before you into Galilee.’ Peter replied, ‘Everyone else may fall away on your account, but I never will.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you, tonight before the cock crows you will disown me three times.’ Peter said, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the disciples said the same.
After Jesus is led away to be crucified, the witness of Matthew goes on to say: Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when a serving-maid accosted him and said, ‘You were there too with Jesus the Galilean.’ Peter denied it in the face of them all. ‘I do not know what you mean’, he said. He then went out to the gateway, where another girl, seeing him, said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Once again he denied it, saying with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ Shortly afterwards the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you are another of them; your accent gives you away!’ At this he broke into curses and declared with an oath: ‘I do not know the man.’ At that moment the cock crew. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will disown me three times.’ He went outside, and wept bitterly.
Could it have been plainer? Peter denied knowing Jesus three times! But just hold on! What might have happened had Peter not denied knowing Jesus? Could it be that Jesus was giving Peter a directive rather than chastising him?
On that bitter Friday, so long ago, the world would have had two dead heroes, two martyrs, rather than only Jesus. In the scheme of things could this phenomenon tend to do harm to the nature of Christianity, if the miracle of Christianity even came to pass without the work of Peter?
After the Ascension of our Lord, on the day of Pentecost, it was Peter who addressed, reassured and promoted the assembled brethren, thus germinating the seeds of Christianity sown by Jesus throughout his ministry on earth. It was Peter who was instrumental in spreading the Gospel of Truth, Hope, and Salvation.
Jesus once said, “You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of death shall never overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Eventually, Peter was crucified as Jesus was, tradition tells us, upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the same way as Jesus.
Was Peter a coward, or has Peter been misunderstood? I say, “Let the Judge be the judge!”