Diary of a Fall
“when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
31 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;
32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."
33 But he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!"
34 And He said, "I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me."
There are several things we notice in this conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter shortly before the arrest and death of our Lord. Besides the obvious prediction which Jesus makes concerning Peter's denial of Him, there are several more subtle items of note. For example, we see that Jesus prays for Peter concerning an event yet in the future. He did not wait until the trouble had already arrived. We see Jesus' confidence in Peter expressed by His words “when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Peter's failure, even so grievous as it is, would not mean Peter could never come back and be useful to the Lord and to others. Consider some points from this event that are worthy of our consideration.
Overconfidence would be one of the reasons Peter did not do well on this occasion. He felt that he had it all together and could not foresee any possible scenario where he would deny Jesus. He was too strong and loyal to Jesus. He knew better.
There are many good reasons to be confident as we are living by faith in Christ. God is stronger than any and all our enemies. We are dedicated and loyal. We love the Lord and our relationship to Him is precious to us. He loves us. We cannot imagine abandoning the One who died for us and now lives again. Falling away just cannot happen to me!
Yes it can.
Being confident does not mean being without concern. Confident people can still be alert and watchful and careful. There is a serious problem when we become over-confident and lack the vigilance the Lord advises us to keep. If I insist I am not in any danger, then I will not be alert. If I accept that there are dangers, then I will proceed with caution, guarding my mind, words and deeds.
And this is true even if I am sincerely overconfident. I firmly believe that Peter meant every word of His insistence that he was OK. Interestingly, Matthew's account of this same conversation adds the following disclaimer made by Peter: “But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." (Matthew 26:33). It appears that this attitude “It can happen to others but not to me.” is perhaps one of the most dangerous.
So, confidence is good. Overconfidence not so much. Overconfidence denies need. Confidence is open to God's help and the assurances that come from heaven; “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
One must never allow the space between Jesus and him or herself to grow too distant. In fact, it must not be permitted to grow at all. Even remaining the same is not so good. We need to draw closer unto our Savior.
When we examine the circumstances of Peter's failure as Jesus' prediction later unfolds, we can see distance as a contributing factor. Though speaking of physical distance in Peter's case, the same is true for spiritual relationships as well.
“Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.
58 But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.”
Think about it for a moment. Suppose that on that night Peter had insisted on being at Jesus' side instead of “following Him at a distance”. Would being close to Jesus instead of back in the shadows have made a difference? How about today? Would a daily walk with Jesus, communicating to Him easily and always recognizing that He is “at hand” make a difference in our own behavior? Would this not give us courage and remind us of the love we have for one another? Of course it would! We will be much more likely to make mistakes if we forget Jesus.
“ Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. “ (Philippians 4:5).
Among Evil Company
“After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.” (Luke 22:55)
Of course, we are around unbelievers all the time. As Paul points out, we would have to leave the world for that not to be the case. To be the “salt of the earth” and “the lights of the world” as Jesus directs us to be, we must remain among the world (1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 2:11,12).
Peter sat down together with people who were openly hostile to Jesus and His disciples. Add to this that Peter was already in the midst of great spiritual confusion and turmoil in his own mind. Especially at this time of trial and weakness, this was the last place he needed to be. It should have been avoided.
Likewise with Jesus' disciples today. There are situations we just need to avoid. Poor Simon Peter ended up denying three times that He knew the Lord, the last time cursing so that his ungodly speech would mask that he had been Jesus' companion. Evidently it worked. Peter's secret remained intact and Satan won the battle.
But remember: Jesus had prayed for Peter. He would be coming back stronger than ever. Satan won the battle that night, but he would lose the war.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 23.11; November 2016