Have you ever said, “I will never do that?” After Jesus had warned Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Peter defensively retorted, “Even if all fall away, I never will. Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.” (Read Luke 22:31-62.)
Jesus simply answered, “Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Peter loved Jesus. He believed his love and loyalty were enough to protect him from any temptation to disown his Lord. He trusted in his resolve and the strength of his affection. Sadly, that was not enough.
Jesus warned Peter “Pray that you might not fall into temptation because the spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Jesus knew both Peter’s stout heart and human frailty and the best way to overcome his weaknesses; however, Peter felt sleep would sustain a weak body better than prayer. From a human perspective, sleep sounds like a good way to strengthen a weak body! However, Jesus knew Peter needed supernatural strength, not natural, to face the next hours.
At first glance, it looks like Peter’s human courage will suffice. Earlier that evening Peter was listening when Jesus told His disciples, “if you don’t have a sword then sell your robe to buy one” (Luke 22:36-38). When hundreds arrived with swords and clubs to seize Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and lopped off the closest man’s ear. Jesus quickly intervened, stopping Peter from his suicide mission and restoring the injured ear (Matthew 26:55).
From a distance, Peter then trailed behind those who had seized Jesus. He quietly entered the enemy’s courtyard and sat among the guards to ascertain what was happening. Sounds rather brave and caring to me! However Peter’s human bravery soon failed.
In the span of a few hours, Peter denied even knowing Jesus, one, two—three times! As the cock crowed during his final denial, Jesus looked directly at Peter. Cut to the heart by the memory of Jesus’ words, Peter went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter’s natural boldness became his liability. His emotional resolve crumbled. On the other hand, Paul learned to boast in his weaknesses because the Lord had revealed, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
How have you experienced this in your life? When have you winged it because you were naturally good, experienced or motivated in an area? Or when have you depended on your preparation for the task instead of depending on God by preparing yourself spiritually? The most productive time of each day may be the time we take to nurture our spirits, yet our flesh tells us we can get by without that.
Jesus’ prayers were answered; Peter returned to the Lord and became a great leader in the church. I am sure he never forgot the night he miserably failed, or the lessons that later sustained him through imprisonment and martyrdom. May we learn from Peter to daily take time to prepare spiritually—even when confident that “I will never…”
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.