By the majority of accounts, Jesus simply tells Peter that Peter will betray Him. However, in Luke, Jesus not only tells Peter about the betrayal but then He says: “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Not only did Jesus say, “Hey Peter, you’re going to deny me,” but He assured Peter that it would be okay in the end. He knew that Peter would come back and regret what he had done. He gave Peter the steps to overcome his grief and to help the other disciples deal with their own. Where Jesus says, “So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers,” it really gets to me. It just stands out to me. Maybe because it feels like a mandate to all of us. We go through things, we fall, we wander off the path, and we deal with regret and guilt because of it, but in the end we come back to God’s embrace. The growth we obtain from that can be used to help others grow as well.
Another things is that after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus looked at Peter. Even in our sin, Jesus still looks at us. He doesn’t shy away or pretend that He doesn’t know us. He looks right at us and sees us. It was Peter that walked away. In fact, according to Luke, Jesus turned towards Peter to look at him. It wasn’t just a side glance that could be missed. It was a full on “Peter I am looking at you and I see you. Now remember what I told you.”
I wonder if Peter, too, ran off when they came to arrest Jesus or did he just stand back and let them take Him? Either way, he would’ve had to deal with some form of guilt and regret over his actions. Add that to the guilt for denying Jesus and I’m sure Peter had a lot of stuff to get over. And yet Jesus called him the “rock on which I will build My church…” (Matt. 16:18). And was it not Peter who was one, and by some accounts, the first, of those who first went to inspect Jesus’ empty tomb after He rose from the dead? Yes it was. Peter also asked to be crucified upside down.
Peter did repent and turn back to Jesus, and he received the strength to overcome these earlier circumstances. After Jesus’ ascension, Peter became one of the leaders of the church. He became one of the loudest voices for Christ, using his voice to strengthen the church long after his death.
The account of Peter’s denial can be found in: Matthew 26:31-35,69-75; Mark 14;27-31,66-72; Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 13:36-38, 18:25-27.