And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:30-35)
Peter is a great study of character. He is impetuous, self-assured, impulsive and on occasion right. The man we are introduced to in the gospel accounts is not the same man we find in his epistles. Growth comes to Peter during that transition. His self-confidence is his downfall as evident in the final hours of Jesus’ life. During the Passover feast Jesus washes the disciple’s feet explaining how they should be servants to one another. The revealing of a traitor among them confuses them still unaware of the sudden death of Jesus that looms ahead. Using Zechariah as a backdrop for the garden message Jesus tells the eleven how they would desert him as sheep scattered in time of crisis. Peter immediately separates himself from his fellow apostles declaring while they would abandon Christ he would never do such a thing. Warned by Jesus of his own personal failure Peter again affirms he was willing to die for Jesus if necessary. Hollow words. False courage.
The rest of the story is well known. Shocked by the sudden arrest of Jesus by a huge mob the disciples flee. Fearing for their lives they go into hiding. Peter stays on the fringe of the events of the night trying to understand what is happening. Asked three times if he was a disciple of Jesus he denies his Lord with a final denial of cursing. Jesus looks into the eyes of Peter and the emboldened disciple who proclaimed his courage hours before now flees weeping in sorrow at his debacle. Hollow words. False courage.
Peter would recover and go on to preach the message of a risen Savior to a world darkened by sin. His words are recorded first in Luke’s account of the beginning of the church. The ministry of Peter would be the focus of the first part of the Acts and two of his epistles would be preserved for prosperity. He was a changed man.
Jesus is a master teacher. He is filled with compassion, love and forgiveness. It was clear that Peter and the ten had no idea what was about to happen when He warned them of the events coming that night. His heart must have ached as Peter proudly boasted of his courage. Jesus knew better. Peter was a fickle man of great courage who needed greater courage to learn how to overcome his capricious nature. “I will never stumble” he bragged. Jesus did not rebuke him. He gently loved him and allowed the events of the next few days to mold his character.
So often we are not unlike Peter. It is easy to become smug in our courage as a Christian having the same boldness. Courage is a valuable part of our arsenal to defeat the wiles of the devil but taking stock of ourselves is where true valor begins. We need Christ to be strong. Peter tried to have courage apart from Christ. Little did he know how much he would need the Lord to be strong. Fighting the battle of sin cannot be done with hallow words of self-righteous faith. Sin can only be defeated through the power of God and Him alone! Prayer is the weapon of choice. The Word must be embedded in our lives deeply from hours of meditation. Fellowship with saints emboldens us with the necessary courage to fight together against Satan. Without the help of the Lord we will fail as Peter did.
Faith comes from the deliberation of the word of God. Without the grace of the Lord in our hearts we ring hallow in our courage. The power is the Word.
If you see a Bible that is falling apart, it probably belongs to someone who isn’t. (Vance Havner)