Jesus was abandoned by everyone that knew him on the night he was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew reported, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56, ESV). During a series of interrogations, Jesus stood alone before the religious and political officials that condemned him to death. One of the unusual aspects of Jesus’ trial was that he was never convicted of a crime. After being questioned by Pilate, the Roman governor declared, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38). In spite of his innocence, Pilate ordered that Jesus be crucified to pacify the crowd that kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him” (Luke 23:21-25, ESV).
The apparent hatred displayed toward Jesus on the day he was crucified might be explained by the behavior of Peter who denied three times that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). Matthew stated, “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end” (Matthew 26:57-58, ESV). Peter detached himself from what was happening to Jesus. It was as if he was watching the end of a movie that was playing out the life of someone he had never met. It seems likely that Peter disassociated himself from Jesus because he was afraid he would be killed if he admitted being his disciple.
Peter’s abandonment of Jesus was probably a result of his lack of faith. When he was confronted, Peter adamantly denied having any association with “the man” (Matthew 26:72). Matthew recorded, “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man'” (Matthew 26:73-74, ESV). Peter’s public denial of Jesus was in a sense the opposite of a profession of faith. Peter was willing to give up his salvation in order to prevent himself from being crucified with Jesus. Afterward, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75), most likely because he realized he had given up the most important thing he had gained from his previous three-year commitment to the Lord.