Read: Mark 14:27-31
Peter’s denial is one of the most striking episodes in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life on earth. The bold, brash, step-out-of-the-boat-guy, loud-mouth Peter speaks before letting the thought sink in when Jesus tells them all:
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mark 14:27
Jesus has predicted His death and resurrection several times, probably more than we have recorded in the Bible, but now He includes some disturbing news: You will all fall away.
Not that their faith is compromised, but fear will grip them and control their actions. Fear wins the day, but not for long. Jesus lets them know He will meet them in Galilee…mark your calendars!
But Peter is stuck on the first statement, he didn’t hear the rest of the story.
Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Mark 14:29
The scene makes me laugh and cry at the same time. How many times have I declared, “Not me!” Only to watch events unfold and disaster averted only by the Grace of God. Too many times.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Mark 14:30
He’s not talking about some distant future, Jesus is talking about now, today, in the next few hours–Peter’s denial is practically on the tip of his tongue now!
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. Mark 14:31
And all the others…were listening as well, following Peter’s lead (just not speaking quite so boldly). In my imagination, I see them nodding in agreement, “yeah, what he said.”
Jesus doesn’t continue the debate. What He has said is complete, this will happen, period.
The pace of events is picking up rapidly. Like a pot that’s beginning to boil, finally, the level of activity is suddenly increasing until the stove is covered in mess and it seems like you can’t turn if off — a nightmare to live through the next few days.
I can’t help but look at the other accounts of this interaction. I love what Luke has to say:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of 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.” Luke 22:31-32
Here’s the key in my mind: “And when you have turned back.” Not “if” you turn back, “when.” When you get back on track here’s what Jesus wants you to do, don’t miss this: “strengthen your brothers.”
Wow! Seriously? Yes indeed. When your strength returns, when your fear is vanquished, the strength that was always deep inside you will be the solid foundation, the rock upon which the church will be formed.
Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail — and it did not. His weakness as a human caught up with him, as it does with me all too often, but this is temporary.
Lord Jesus, when we make a mess of things, as the pot boils over during this joyful, trying season of the year, help us remember these words of assurance:
the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4