All It Took Was A Little Girl

I am haunted by Peter’s denial of Jesus.

Jesus has been captured and taken before the High Priest. Peter, silently and without drawing attention to himself, follows Jesus to the house of the High Priest. Peter is fully aware that his association with Jesus puts him at risk of capture and arrest as well but he can’t fathom what is transpiring and his curiosity leads him near enough to try to find out what happens to Jesus. But, in the wild stew that is Peter’s emotions at the moment, he wasn’t prepared for random strangers to start identifying him as a disciple of Jesus and begin questioning him.

If you put yourself into this situation and think about what it might take for you to start denying Jesus you might think it would be the threat of violence or the gruff authority of a Roman soldier or a menacing mob of people. Not for Peter, his denial wasn’t at the point of a sword or out of pure dread of bodily harm. No, all it took was a servant girl. 

She may have been in her teens or younger and was very insignificant in this dramatic scene that was unfolding with Roman soldiers, Jewish guards, and high ranking community officials. She was small and weak in this societal context and posed little threat to Peter other than possibly a little gossip she might share later in the evening. Don’t you think it is strange that Peter flatly denies Jesus even to this little girl? What was going on here?

Denial of Saint Peter by Caravaggio

Dallas Willard would say that Peter’s inner transformation as a disciple and follower of Jesus hadn’t reached his body yet. In other words, Peter’s mind and heart may have been changed and shaped by Jesus but his body was still programmed to do whatever it was going to do. Placed in a compromising position, Peter’s tongue and lips went into default mode and at that moment it didn’t matter what his belief system was or the miracles he had witnessed; his body was acting from a place of fear, anger, protection, sin, and impulsiveness. 

We have trained our bodies to easily type, drive, walk, and take out the trash. We don’t have to think about what we are doing, it is automatic. In the same way, our sinful actions, reactions, and impulses are often on auto pilot unless we have let God work on our body and transform it to be a part of us that responds righteously, with care, and in appropriate ways. Peter thought he was a righteous and mature disciple but his body was still operating in its broken automatic ways and it betrayed him and ultimately Jesus. All it took was a little girl.

So, often, we self righteously read about Peter’s denial of Jesus and scoff and shake our head in disgust. “We would never have done what Peter did.” Just a few hours earlier in this story, Peter said the exact same thing and swore that he would never deny Jesus. Yet, all it took was a little girl.

Our bodies need to be a part of our transformation and we need to make a way for all of these parts of ourselves to respond in ways that are honoring to God and draws us closer to Him and continues to bless others and do what Christ wants done. 

Next time, I will talk about what we can do to begin working on our bodies so that it doesn’t betray us or Christ, no matter the situation.

3 thoughts on “All It Took Was A Little Girl

  1. What about the thought that Peter had to self preserve to continue to be part of the ministry of Christ Jesus (assuming his heart was in a good place)? It didn’t make a lot of sense to bring attention to oneself at that point (certain death) – unless he feels that God will provide divine intervention – which in a way could be presumptuous – especially since Jesus told him what he would end up doing – the path.

    Isn’t more impactful, to at first feel shame (negative) then humbleness (positive) about the denial and then continue to rise spiritually to the benefit of the ministry. Action over Words.

    In other words, it might not make sense to proclaim Jesus as Lord to North Korean law enforcement – certain death (throwing pearls to swine). There is a time and a place to be a martyr perhaps.

    Just a thought and know we all like the story as such….

    1. He was absolutely preserving himself but Peter doesn’t seem like the type that would be this calculated. I doubt he had a plan when he arrived at Caiaphas’ courtyard other than I shouldn’t abandon Jesus but even that commitment was half hearted.

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