Contributed by James Tissot Collection (Brooklyn Museum)

Matthew 26:57-75 narrates the contrast between Jesus, the ultimate example of courage, and Peter, who succumbed to fear. Matthew’s authorial intent highlights the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and the consequences of denying them. It reminds us to stay true to our beliefs even when things don’t go our way. 

Facing Adversity

The first thing we see in Jesus is that he resisted adversity with strength. The religious leaders take Jesus before Caiaphas after His arrest. Despite the hostile audience, Jesus demonstrates quiet confidence in His demeanour (vs 63). Jesus stays resolute in pursuing His mission.

In contrast, Peter’s experience is starkly different. As Peter followed Jesus at a distance, he eventually found himself in the high priest’s courtyard. Peter grows increasingly anxious as he struggles with fear. Consequently, he denies knowing Jesus three times (vs 69-75).

Truth-telling Voice

Furthermore, Jesus is unwavering in his commitment to the truth. False accusations continue to be levelled against him throughout the trial. Jesus, however, was bold enough to declare Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God, when he was directly questioned about His identity (vs 64). As a result of his unwavering commitment to the truth, his death is unanimously sentenced.

Meanwhile, Peter’s actions demonstrate the fragility of human nature. Peter succumbs to the pressures of his environment as he denies Jesus, putting self-preservation above loyalty to Christ. Consequently, Peter weeps bitterly as his spirit crumbles (vs 75).

Faith and Fortitude

Moreover, Jesus epitomises divine love through his faith and fortitude. Even though He knows His sacrifice will ultimately bring salvation to humanity, He stands firm in the face of impending crucifixion. In this regard, Jesus offers us an exemplary model of perseverance and grit.

On the other hand, Peter’s story reminds us of our weaknesses. Doubt and fear can easily derail a disciple despite one’s best efforts. We must remember, however, that Peter’s story continues after failure. Peter became a stalwart pillar of the early church after Jesus’ resurrection, showing that redemption remains possible for those who seek it.

Final Words

Matthew 26:57-75 illustrates the contrast between Jesus’ and Peter’s journeys. While Jesus represents courage, truth, and divine love, Peter’s experience shows our vulnerability. However, Peter eventually overcame his weaknesses and grew in the attributes of Jesus.

As we emulate Jesus’ fortitude in our daily lives, let us acknowledge our shortcomings and seek redemption through His grace. If things don’t go your way, you can rest in knowing that you can also respond like Jesus did – in boldness and truth.

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.