And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
One of your parents – or perhaps your spouse – has probably said to you at one time or another, “You’re not sorry for what you did. You’re just sorry you got caught.” And the hard thing is, they were right. So many times we do something wrong, and when we get caught we confess, but in our hearts we feel more wounded in our pride than wounded in our conscience.
In today’s verse we see Peter being faced with something he swore he wouldn’t do. Peter had told his Teacher, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35) And yet the fisherman had denied Jesus not just once but three times in one night, just as Jesus had said he would. What made it worse was that Peter had no one to apologize to, no one whom he could look in the eye right then and say, “I’m sorry.” So, he “wept bitterly” at his betrayal, knowing that Christ had been right about his denials.
There will be another time and place where many will weep:
11 “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Those who are caught in their unbelief, those who deny Christ even after having known and seen and heard of Him – even if they are sons of Abraham, they will still be cast out from God’s presence. They will weep at being excluded from the kingdom of God, and they will grind their teeth in frustration, still not aware of what they needed to do in this lifetime to “enter through the narrow gate.” (Luke 13:24)
What DO we need to do? We need to start by not denying Christ. “But I don’t deny Him,” we say. We DO deny Him – every time we tell a little lie, every time we disrespect our parents or our spouses, every time we envy someone else’s material success, every time we hide our sin from those affected by it, every time we make more time for the things we want than for the things of God, every time we throw away another chunk of our precious lives in not caring for others but only caring for ourselves. We deny Christ in our lust, our greed, our gluttony, our pride, our envy, our anger and our sloth. Yes, those are the so-called “seven deadly sins,” because the sorrow we feel about being caught in those things is worldly sorrow, a sorrow that does not lead to repentance, a sorrow that leads only to death:
2 Corinthians 7:9-10
9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
So the next time you feel sorry for having done something, examine yourself and ask yourself honestly, “Am I only sorry in my pride for having been caught, or am I sorry that I have offended God?”
If we know in our hearts we have denied Christ and the work He has done in us, then we know it is time to repent and change our ways. Peter wept and eventually he did repent, for he finally knew his friend had indeed been the Messiah. Only when we repent can we find salvation through Christ. And if we do not repent, then we will indeed join those in hell – the “outer darkness” – who only feel sorry for getting caught.
Heavenly Father, search my heart today and convict my soul. Teach me, O Lord, all that I must set right in my life, all that I must not only feel sorry for, but all that I must repent. I wish, dear God, to seek only You, and I want so much to leave behind all those things that make me deny Your Son and the hard work He did for me on Calvary’s Cross. Amen.