Dear Corps of 24,
Considering the evening (even though it is already very late as I write), I would like to present what might be considered a rather cheap character contrast: Simon Peter and the Lord Jesus Himself. The time is the night the Lord is betrayed, and the setting is the Garden of Gethsemane.
The lead up to this situation is clear to us: Jesus’ repeated predictions that He would suffer, the announcement that one of the Twelve would betray Him, and His sad declaration that all of His disciples would abandon Him. In other words, His task was clear to Him, including the many painful obstacles and letdowns that would mark His way.
Heading into Gethsemane, Peter’s path forward was also fairly clear. Jesus warned him that he would deny Jesus thrice before the rooster crowed, a prediction that Peter balked at (in his defense, he wasn’t alone: the rest of the disciples talked that way, too).
Here’s how things unfolded:
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” ~ Matthew 26:36–46 (ESV)
The skinny is that Jesus—flawless, sinless Son of God—prayed fervently and repeatedly regarding the trial He knew was coming. He didn’t lean on His status with the Father, His past performance, or His righteousness. In short, Jesus presumed nothing as He appealed to the Father in gut-wrenching spiritual agony.
Peter slept. That sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. (Again, he wasn’t alone in his negligence, but there it is.)
Now, what are the consequences, the end result of these actions?
And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ~ Matthew 26:63–64 (ESV)
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. ~ Matthew 26:69–75 (ESV)
Jesus and Peter both knew what was coming their way—there weren’t any curve balls in this game. The pitches were right over the plate. Both were asked questions, quite literally yards from each other and essentially simultaneously. The difference is that Jesus faced the high priest in his rage who had the power to put Jesus to death, while Peter faced a slave girl—someone of low social station and no power at all.
What’s the difference? Jesus prayed through, while Peter didn’t pray at all. It is easy for us to shrug and say, “Well, Jesus was the Son of God, of course He was tough as nails.” That statement is not untrue, but it’s truer that most people who say it realize, and in different ways. Jesus was sinless indeed, but that purity of soul gave Him the wisdom to know He needed to call on His Father for strength. There was no presumption in Jesus. Peter, in contrast, thought that his zeal and love for the Lord would be enough to carry him through, and he was proved terribly wrong. The sad truth is that Peter did love Jesus, and did have genuine zeal for Him. But love and zeal and good intentions—to say nothing of strong words and promises—aren’t enough.
All of us face spiritual mountains. Often we know they are coming at us as we move through life. Let’s take a lesson from Jesus and Peter: those mountains have to be moved before we reach actually them. Presuming nothing, taking no chances, putting no confidence in the flesh, we pray, pray, pray and we allow God to achieve the victory in us first, so that the battle is won before we step onto the battlefield. Agonize now in prayer and reap God’s peace later, or sleep now and agonize later at a price you cannot afford. Jesus was cool as ice facing the Sanhedrin because (in the Spirit) He’d already bashed in the Serpent’s head in the Garden. Peter failed to deal with a squeaky little girl because he hadn’t done what he needed to with the window of opportunity he’d been given.
Please pray for Easter at NorthLake, for a move of the Holy Spirit, for a blessing, for God to draw people in. Praying for you.