In Matthew 26, we come to the arrest, betrayal, and trial of Jesus. Simon Peter has an interesting place during these events. At the passover dinner, Jesus proclaims that all of the disciples will abandon him.
Matthew 26:31–35 (NKJV) — 31 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.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.
Peter proclaims that even if everyone else stumbles, he will never stumble. Jesus then tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times that very night. We can see that Peter’s intent is good. He really does believe he won’t stumble. Later in the night, we see Peter even boldly decide he is going to fight for Jesus.
Matthew 26:51 (NKJV) — 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
The Gospel of John gives the same account and tells us that the one with the sword is Peter.
John 18:10 (NKJV) — 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
It is interesting that Peter, against all these guards, has the courage to start swinging a sword. Yet, Jesus stops him and proclaims that he doesn’t need Peter’s help.
Matthew 26:52–54 (NKJV) — 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
Jesus tells Peter, “I can call on my Father and get twelve legions of angels. Peter, you really can’t help me and I don’t want you to help me. Peter, this has been the plan all along.” Now, later, during Jesus’ trial before the elders of Israel, Peter no longer is so brave.
Matthew 26:69–75 (NKJV) — 69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
What happened? Why the change in Peter? In one case, he is willing to swing a sword and fight outstanding odds of guards. In the second case, Peter seems afraid of even the servants knowing he was a disciple of Jesus.
I find that we can all be like this. We are all zealous for the Lord at times and at others we cower. What is it? If we look closely at the two cases, we see a distinct difference. In the case where Peter is courageous, Jesus is standing there, not bound, and showing His great power (John 18 tells us that Jesus makes the multitude of guards fall back with the power of his voice). Yet, in the case were Peter denies Jesus, Jesus is bound, being tried, being struck by officials, and is silent and not defending Himself. Peter is brave when he thinks Jesus is going to fight. Peter is a coward when he thinks Jesus is powerless.
We often think we need to fight for Jesus, or fight through a trial, or make sure we do the exact right thing or say the exact right thing. It’s easy when things seem to be going right. But, when it doesn’t look like the Lord is doing what we want, we get nervous or afraid that we will get it wrong. We fear that someone won’t be saved because we don’t have the right words. We think someone can’t be healed if we don’t pray enough. We need to remember what Jesus told Peter about legions of Angels. Jesus doesn’t need any of us. Jesus isn’t going to leave someone’s salvation up to us. Jesus isn’t going to let someone’s healing be up to us. Yes, Jesus does answer prayers. He often uses our prayers to prove Himself to us. But, Jesus doesn’t need me and He doesn’t need you. True faith is knowing this simple truth. And in knowing this, you can really be free to serve him.
In His Service, Scott
This Week’s Reading Plan:
- Day 1 – Matthew 27-28
- Day 2 – Mark 1-3
- Day 3 – Mark 4-5
- Day 4 – Mark 6-7
- Day 5 – Mark 8-9
- Day 6 – Mark 10-11
- Day 7 – Mark 12-13