It’s Easter week! In light of this unimaginable sacrifice and the overwhelming grace of God, I want to begin this daily devotional with a prayer.
God, THANK YOU! Thank You for Your overwhelming grace and Your perfect plan from the very beginning of time. Thank You for Your sacrifice on our behalf. All of the pain and the suffering in order to reconcile us, Your children, back to You. Help us to never lose sight of the magnitude of that sacrifice. May we always live life in awe of You. Keep us centered and grounded in Your Word today as we explore the truths of Your Word. We love You! Amen.
Today we are going to talk about Peter and what the Easter story must have looked like through his eyes. In order to do that, we need to get a little background first. Peter was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. His disciples were His closest friends, His students, the ones that He took extra time in teaching more in-depth to, His trusted companions. These twelve had spent countless hours with Jesus, seeing firsthand many miracles and learning day and night from the Son of God. To say that they had a close bond would be an understatement.
We’ll be taking a look into Matthew chapter 26. In Matthew 26:31, Jesus tells His disciples, His twelve, His closest friends, what is coming. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Tonight all of you will fall away because of me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
Peter’s first response is this, “Even if everyone falls away because of you, I will never fall away.” Matthew 26:33. Peter, like any of us would when faced with the idea of willingly leaving Jesus’s side, sternly and earnestly denies that he would ever do that. In this moment, he truly couldn’t believe that there would ever be a situation in which he would choose to leave Jesus. Jesus continues in verse 34, “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus said to him, ‘tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’” Here, he is talking directly to Peter. He is telling Peter that it is true, it will happen, and He already knows the outcome. And again, Peter can’t believe it. “‘Even if I have to die with you,’ Peter told him, ‘I will never deny you,’ and all the disciples said the same thing.” Matthew 26:35
See, the thing is… we all want to do good and to be good. When faced with these types of situations, we all want to believe that we would make the right choice, that we would stick by Jesus through whatever may come our way. But like Peter, when the situation actually arises and we are confronted with danger, we tend to surprise ourselves. But something to take note of here during this exchange between Peter and Jesus is that Jesus is not speaking to Peter in an angry, accusatory manner. In fact, it’s more of a matter-of-fact way. He isn’t angry, He isn’t bitter, He is simply telling Peter what He already knows will happen before the night ends.
Later on in the night, when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him, Peter and Jesus have another meaningful and foreshadowing exchange of words. Jesus is in a time of deep sorrow and distress. He knows what is coming His way, He knows what has to happen, but He is deeply grieved by what is about to take place. He asks Peter, James, and John to stay awake and to pray. He goes into the garden alone, falls face down in prayer, returns an hour later and finds the disciples sleeping. He asks them, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).
What a beautiful moment. Jesus, facing unimaginable pain, torture, mockery, the weight of bearing the fullness of God’s wrath on the cross, still takes the time to minister to Peter. He warns him that temptation is near. He warns him that yes, his spirit may be willing to follow Jesus through whatever is about to come, but his flesh is weak in the moment. He instructs him to stay awake and to pray fervently that he would not fall into that temptation. Again, the disciples fall asleep and by this time, the plan is already in motion and Jesus’s betrayer is near. Moments later, Judas arrives with the servants of the high priest and Jesus is arrested. Now, Peter’s first reaction here is to immediately pull out his sword and start swinging. In fact, he used it to cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest.
Peter follows far behind as Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, the high priest. He entered quietly into the courtyard and sat with the servants, hoping to see what the outcome would be. Instead of slipping in and out unnoticed, a servant girl spotted him and confronted him. “You were with Jesus the Galilean too” (Matthew 26:69). Peter responds, in front of everyone, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Denial #1. He tries to leave, and again, another woman sees him and tells others who he is. “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:72). Denial #2. Others around him start to take notice and accuse him on being “one of them.” Peter starts to get angry and begins to curse and swear, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:74). Denial #3.
The Bible says that immediately following the third denial, a rooster crowed. Just as Jesus had told him that very night before, just as Peter had so fervently denied and couldn’t believe that he would ever deny Jesus… it had happened. In just a few moments, when confronted with accusations and possible danger, he had folded under the pressure and did exactly what he knew was coming.
Immediately, Peter went outside and began to weep. He knew exactly what he had done and he was overcome with sorrow. But I’d like to go back to the moment the night before when Jesus first told Peter what would happen, that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. Again, Jesus was not angry with Peter. He was not saying this to make Peter feel ashamed or embarrassed. He was simply telling Peter what He already knew would take place that next morning. He went on throughout the night, praying and pleading with His Father to let this cup pass from Him. He knew exactly what was coming. He knew that it had to take place. And even through all of it, facing the horrors that He knew were coming, He took time to be intentional and continue to teach Peter. He warned Him that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. He urged him to pray that he might be able to resist temptation. He reassured him that in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled, this is what had to happen.
This is the Savior that we serve. This is the Savior that loves us. He treats us with the same dignity and respect as He did Peter in that moment of prophecy. He knew the betrayal that was coming from Peter, and He loved him anyway. He knew that Peter would buckle under the pressure of that moment, but He stayed with him and continued to teach him. Jesus knew that He would be alone, that His disciples, His closest friends, would scatter throughout the night… but He loved them anyway. He knew that I would mess up in my life. He knew the mistakes that I would make and the times I would dishonor Him or turn away from Him. He knew my faults, but He chose the cross anyway. He knew your faults, but He chose the cross anyway.
If there’s anything that we can learn from this exchange between Peter and Jesus in His final days, it’s this: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We may have good intentions, and most of the time I would say that we do, but sometimes we end up doing things that we never thought we would do. Because it’s in those moments, when we’re confronted with persecution and judgment and accusation, that our flesh is truly weak. And sometimes we buckle. And you know what? That’s okay. Jesus won’t turn and run from us in our moments of weakness. I know this because He didn’t turn and run from Peter, fully knowing that his moment of weakness was coming.
Friends, take heart. We will all stumble and fall from time to time. It’s a guarantee. No one is immune. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short. But, don’t forget the next verse. That’s where the beauty is! “They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). We are justified by His grace and through the redemption that is Jesus. We will mess up, but He knows that. Our flesh is weak, but He knows that, too. But that’s not where He leaves us. That’s not where He left Peter. He doesn’t leave us in our sin, but instead He has justified us through His sacrifice and redemption, despite our faults. And that, my friends, is something worth living your life for.
1. How can you relate to Peter’s story and version of the Easter story?
2. Have you allowed this Gospel to radically change your life? Why or why not?
3. What are some characteristics of Jesus that you learned from His interactions with Peter?
God, again, THANK YOU. Thank You for who You are and thank You for who You have made me to be. I am so grateful for this message of love, and redemption, and sacrifice. Help me every day to never lose sight of this sacrifice. Use it to change my life radically from the inside out so that I might live every day for the cause of Your Kingdom. Thank You for never giving up on me. I love You and I am thankful for You. Amen.
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