St Peter’s denials of the Lord Jesus are often chalked up to cowardice. The gospel accounts of the first Maundy Thursday suggest otherwise, that the roots of Peter’s failure lay elsewhere. He had told Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you”; his drawing the sword in Gethsemane proved it.
Peter’s deficiency was not in courage, it was in understanding. His declaration “I will lay down my life for you” exactly reversed the roles. It would first be Jesus’s part to lay down his life for Peter, the part of the greater to lay down his life for the lesser, the leader’s part to lay down his life for his follower — the Christ’s part to die like the lamb. That presented Peter — certainly a natural leader — with a most uncomfortable question: can you take that?
If so, welcome to the Kingdom of God, where the new commandment — “just as I have loved you (to the extent of laying down my life), you must love one another” — is no inaccessible ideal, but simply the way of life.