What Peter’s Failure Teaches Us about Discipling on the Front Lines

By Sam Brown, reprinted from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

Luke 22:56–57

The mayhem of this situation doesn’t always leap off the page.  

Jesus, having been arrested in Gethsemane, is led to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest. A fire is lit in the middle of the courtyard where people began to gather. This would not have been a calm setting. The crowds who had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem less than a week earlier had turned sour. Bustling activity, piercing shouts and screams, and fierce bloodlust consume the scene.  

As the fire illuminates the courtyard, a woman catches a glance of a face she recognizes. She realizes the person in front of her is Peter, a follower of Jesus.  

Peter would deny Jesus twice more, then exchange what must have been the most heart-wrenching of looks with his rabbi, before fleeing in tears when he realized he had indeed denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed.   

Our Easter journey is incomplete without the denial of Jesus. We connect to the individuals in the story for different reasons. Some days we see ourselves as the crowd chanting the name of Barabbas. On others, we might identify with Simon of Cyrene, shouldering the cross on the climb up the hill to Calvary. Perhaps, this year, we might examine ourselves in respect to Peter’s denial.    

The people in our churches face situations not dissimilar to Peter in their daily lives. It might not be Caiaphas’ front garden, but they’re comparably manic. The parent who has to get three kids out the door for school on time. The student with three exams in the next two days, not to mention the pile of essays to be completed by next week. The traffic warden surrounded by confused and angry drivers. All these examples – and your frontlines, too – give invitations and opportunities to be fruitful disciples of Christ, just as Peter had in Caiaphas’ courtyard.   

But Peter wilted amongst the noise. And, whilst I’m not suggesting your church members are necessarily denying Jesus on their frantic frontlines, it’s possible they’re not as fruitful as they could be. Patience wears thin for the embattled parent. Peace almost totally departs the snowed-under student. Self-control is a struggle for the unpopular traffic warden.   

As church leaders, we’re in the business of disciple making. We might be really effective at making disciples for Sunday, and even for the week with assorted church activities that rely on volunteers. But how do you equip and envision your members for those days when life is straining them?   

As we watch Peter undergo a painful process of formation from half-hearted follower to repentant disciple, we do so in the knowledge of what he will become – preacher, evangelist, rock. Filled with confidence by the Spirit, Peter would be a fruitful disciple – and then some. So, what does faith-confidence look like for the faces who stare up at you every Sunday? What will connect and help them be fruitful against all the odds in the difficulty of their day-to-day life?  

At LICC, we’ve recently launched a new devotional journey on Confidence. We’ve delved into what it means to live with a deeply held confidence in Christ, and how we can grow in that confidence. Our confidence grows through being convinced, supportive community, cultivating compassion, daily consistency, developing competence, and resolved courage. Originally devised for Lent, it’s 40 days in length – but it’s a great way to grow in faith-confidence at any time of the year. Visit our website to sign up for the daily emails or to access the plan on YouVersion.  

Let’s pray that, this Easter, the people in our churches will be filled anew with confidence to live with Jesus right where they are. Confident because Christ is risen, and confident because he is with them and working through them, in all the little details of life. 

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