THE ONE WHO CHOSE TO DIE
Lord, help me to guard against spiritual overconfidence.
Read MATTHEW 26:31–35
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How many times have you felt overconfident about victory over a certain weakness, only to succumb once again?
It is very easy to criticize Peter, as if we would not have felt the same way and said similar things. It is always hard to accept that a loved one is going to die, let alone a strong one, one who has always been the leader. In responding to Peter’s notorious denial, we have the benefit of hindsight—2,000 years of hindsight, of over-familiarity with the story and the knowledge of what will happen. Peter does not have such knowledge and he reacts to Jesus’ predictions of future suffering the way most people would: deny them. Taking it a step further, Peter protests that he would never desert Jesus—but Jesus knows that in a short while he will. In Luke’s version, Jesus calls him “Simon,” the name from his old life, as well as “Peter” (“Cephas” in Aramaic), his new name as a disciple.
One of the central aspects of discipleship that Jesus teaches is that denial of suffering is not the path to life. Only those who deny themselves find eternal life. Peter’s denials are also prompted by another misconception: that Jesus’ death would mean the end of the road, the end of their relationship. Dying is not what people were hoping the Messiah would do. Jesus’ impressive preaching and healing logically leads to power and glory, not to the cross—but Jesus has a totally different agenda. The cross will not be the brutal victory of Jesus’ enemies in a fatal power game but rather an offering for others. God’s power exceeds death. We know now what Peter does not know then: that God will bring Jesus and his disciples through the horror of the next few days to become the foundation of the new people of God.
Pray the prayer of David in Psalm 131:1: “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.”
Help us, O Lord, to deny not You but ourselves, to follow Your example, to tread with You the path of self-sacrifice which alone leads to eternal life.