I want to continue to consider Peter’s denial of Jesus described in Luke 22:31-62.
Jesus specifically warned Peter of his denial while at the last supper. Now how could Peter deny Christ despite being clearly warned by Him just a few hours earlier? There was no lack of human bravery in Peter; he was clearly willing to follow Jesus to prison and to death. Yet, after all this, Peter still failed more than any of the other disciples (all the rest deserted Jesus but didn’t deny Him). Let us look at the serious sin of discouragement that triggered Peter’s greatest failure.
Tracing Peter’s fall
Right after His prediction that Peter would deny Him three times (v31-34), Jesus instructs His disciples to sell their coat for a sword. When the disciples respond that they have two swords, Jesus says that two swords are sufficient (v35-38). Jesus then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane and asks Peter, James, and John to pray with Him. But they fall asleep while Jesus prays (v39-46). Soon after He is done, Judas comes with the soldiers to arrest Jesus. One of those with Jesus said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (v49). They asked Jesus this because He had told them to carry a sword. They probably therefore assumed that this was the time to use the sword that Jesus had instructed them to carry.
Peter meanwhile, was probably still hurting from Jesus’s prediction that he would deny Jesus. He saw a crowd coming armed with swords and clubs (v52), and thought that this was what Jesus was talking about. Peter could run away and be safe, or fight to protect Jesus and be killed. Eager to prove Jesus wrong, he swung his sword and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest (v50).
But what he was not prepared for was Jesus’s response. Jesus rebuked Peter sharply and said, “No more of this!” (v51). And He asked Peter to put his sword back (John 18:11).
I think this was the final straw for Peter. Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him, and then instructed His disciples to carry a sword. Peter put these two things together and thought that Jesus was saying that Peter would not fight for Jesus unto death. Then, when Peter was willing to give up his life for Jesus and swung his sword, Jesus instead turned around and rebuked him.
I believe this discouraged him tremendously. Jesus rejected his most courageous act. Even when he was willing to physically sacrifice his life for Jesus, he was still rebuked. As Peter watched Jesus at His trial, the hurt and discouragement grew. I’m sure Satan further stirred his pride and discouragement with thoughts of self-pity and guilt. It was in this lowest of states, that Peter denied Jesus thrice, and even to a servant girl.
Jesus understood the immense power in prayer (Luke 22:31- 32)
Jesus told Peter that Satan himself had targeted Peter (Luke 22:31). But let’s not miss the fact that Satan had to get permission. Satan didn’t have the right to “sift” Peter without getting permission from God first.Like in the story of Job, the devil needed permission from God. This should be a wonderful comfort for us. We have no reason to be scared of the devil; our Heavenly Father is in control.
Now did Christ want Peter to fall? Never! God never wants us to fall, nor does He tempt anyone (James 1:13). But He also saw the confidence in self and pride that opened Peter to the devil’s attacks. So Jesus warned Peter. He could not force Peter because of his free-will. But He could still pray for Peter. The devil wanted to destroy Peter– like chaff is blown away from the wheat. Jesus prayed that even though Peter would fall because of his pride, he would still repent and turn back to Him. Then, the devil would not destroy Peter altogether (like chaff blown away from the wheat).
What also stands out to me is the great rest that Jesus finds in prayer. Prayer was His weapon to counter-attack the devil’s attempts to sift Peter. We might think that the best way to counter the devil’s attack was for Jesus to remind Peter who God is. Or for Jesus to logically reason with Peter. But Jesus chose the most effective path: To pray for Peter. Jesus is not surprised when we fall, because we always fall due to our pride. But Jesus is still compassionate and lives to intercede for us and draw us back to Him.
What might have happened if Peter had obeyed Jesus and prayed?
When Jesus was at the Garden of Gethsemane, He urged Peter to pray – so that they may not enter into temptation. Was this an empty exhortation by Jesus? Was Peter destined to fall no matter what? Absolutely not! Peter failed because he did not take Jesus’s repeated warnings seriously. Jesus saw that Satan wanted to sift Peter. But Peter did not fall because the Father pre-destined Him to sin. Even we, being evil relative to God, would never force our children to do the thing we detest most.
Who knows what might have happened if Peter had chosen to pray here, instead of sleep? The Father might have reminded Peter about Jesus’ words to love his enemies and to pray for his persecutors. Maybe the Father might have reminded Peter that Jesus HAD to go to the cross and that Peter’s duty was to obey the new commandment of Jesus, which was to love his fellow disciples.
Pride and Discouragement
This is an important lesson for us. Now God ALWAYS seeks to help us fight sin. Jesus urged Peter to pray because He wanted Peter to find grace in his time of need.
We must believe God’s absolute promise that He will always provide a way of escape out of every temptation (2 Corinthians 10:13). We can live in freedom from sin when we find the way of escape and come under grace (Romans 6:14). And the reason we do not find the way of escape and come under grace is simple: We are proud (1 Peter 5:5). It is always our pride that causes us to fall into sin. EVERY SINGLE TIME! This is a very important fact to see this about ourselves and ALL our failures.
But here’s something I have also found: A very close companion to pride is self-pity and discouragement. We see this in Peter’s failure, and I have seen this over and over in my life. Discouragement is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against us. We do not fall in big ways just because we are proud. As I just said, ALL sin is a result of our pride. But when pride is mixed with discouragement, we are capable of the worst of sins.
Fighting discouragement: Keep getting up!
Even though Jesus saw Peter’s pride and Satan’s evil desires, Jesus had hope. Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail! Jesus wanted Peter to endure and not give up!
The word “peter” is now an English verb. Webster tells me that to peter out means to diminish gradually and come to an end; or to become exhausted. I do not know the origin of the meaning to this word, but Peter is definitely NOT an example of this at the end of his life. He did deny Jesus, but praise God, that’s not the end of his life story.
For us as well, Jesus is less concerned by the quantity of our failures as He is by the present quality of our faith (James 1:3 – knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance). God sends trials our way to show us the quality of our faith. And the very first virtue that these fiery trials are meant to produce in us is endurance (not victory).
This is the NUMBER ONE lesson to learn in battling discouragement. Keep getting up! Never lose your desire to depend on Jesus, and never lose your full confidence in Jesus.
It’s one thing to lose a battle. But it’s a much bigger thing to lose the war.
It’s one thing to experience failure.But it’s a much bigger thing to lose your faith.
Let us keep evaluating the quality of our faith. Maybe our faith was fiery hot, but we’ve now toned it down because we’re scared to be called fanatics. Or maybe the narrow road of being a sold-out disciple is too hard! Or maybe we are afraid of man’s opinion and so want to be “balanced”: The right amount of work, the right amount of vacation, and yes, the right amount of Jesus too.
Let’s be encouraged from the failure of Peter: Even denying Jesus at some point in life is not hopeless. Today can be the day of salvation, where we get back up and choose to return to Jesus. And as we read the rest of Peter’s story, our faith can grow that what Jesus did to and through Peter, He can do for us too.