56 Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away.
... and turn it into the false teaching that none of the disciples was around to see Jesus tortured, crucified and die (we have covered that claim in a previous article linked to below). But some Muslims also mock the apostles for being cowards who fled Jesus' side when He most needed them, never to be seen again.
In this post, we will address the allegation that the Lord Jesus' right hand man, the Apostle Peter, totally abandoned Jesus after His arrest and ran away to hide until all was safe once again. We will show that, to those familiar with the Gospels, Peter remained true to form even after the apostles' initial reaction of fleeing the arresting party.
As happens often when responding to a Muslim who quotes Scriptures to a Christian, all one usually needs to do is keep reading because the verses following the quote often -- and very succinctly -- rebut the Islamic claim. To wit:
57 Those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had convened.
58 Meanwhile, Peter was following Him at a distance right to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and was sitting with the temple police to see the outcome.
Verse 58 clearly shows that, while he had fled at first, Peter steeled himself and followed after Jesus and His arresting party. Even worse, Peter "followed Him at a distance right to the high priest’s courtyard."
How does this prove that Peter was not the total coward these Muslims claim he was?
Why was this either very courageous of Peter or very foolhardy?
Because of something that had transpired during Jesus' arrest that is related to us by the Apostle John, one of the other brave Apostles who did not abandon Jesus for very long.
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slave’s name was Malchus.)
11 At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?”
The man whose ear Peter had cut off was the slave of the high priest, to whose home Peter had followed Jesus and the arresting party. The face of the person who has just cut off your ear is sure to be imprinted on your mind for the rest of your life, and so Peter's actions here were surely going to be dangerous for him. After all, he had just attempted to kill a man to defend the Lord Jesus.
Whether Peter knew that Malchus was the high priest's slave or not is immaterial because Peter had now walked into the high priest's home, the one place where he could be easily identified as one of the Lord Jesus' apostles.
And that is precisely what happened:
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant approached him and she said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean too.”
70 But he denied it in front of everyone: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!”
72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, “You certainly are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed,
75 and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Was he a coward who ran away and never showed his face again after Jesus' arrest?
No, he was not. He showed enough courage and loyalty to Christ to follow Him to the high priest's very home.
Was Peter afraid of being tortured and dying simply for being a devoted follower of Jesus? Yes, hence his denials.
Did Peter escape the city after he'd been identified even though he had denied Christ?
No, John tells us that, rather than flee, Peter went outside the high priest's courtyard, just steps away from the threat to his life, and wept bitterly.
In Acts 2, we see a Spirit-filled and much humbler Peter preach the Gospel boldly and courageously to his people without a hint of concern for his own welfare. A Peter who was eventually murdered for preaching the Risen Christ.
But was he ever the spineless coward some Muslims portray him to be?
Did All of Jesus' Apostles Desert Him at His Arrest, and Never Return?
EyeWitness Report... The Crucifixion
Did Jesus Die On the Cross? II