So, you’ve had a great day. It seems like it just could not have been better. You are strong and your faith is at a high point. You can conquer the world!
And, then, out of nowhere comes massive failure! This happens to everyone but what do we do about it? Is there a way out and a way to avoid these dramatic ups and downs?
Jesus teaches us that failure is not inevitable but if it happens there is a road to redemption.
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
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.”
But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”
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.”
And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.”
After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”
Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 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 26:31–35, 69–75 (ESV)
Jesus was always teaching! What is he teaching us here?
Seven elements of the story
Jesus states a biblical principle that when the shepherd is struck the sheep scatter. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. In this case, it was God’s will that all the disciples be scattered at this point and escape arrest.
Jesus gave reassurance with the warning, reminding the disciples that he would again lead them (I will go before you).
Peter was quick to establish his determination to stay with Jesus all the way. If all fall away…I never will! Peter was as determined as could be and thoroughly resolved to see this through.
Jesus was very specific in his response to Peter: “You will deny me three times.” That meant that he would repudiate and forcefully deny any association with Jesus not once but three times.
Of course, Peter would not believe Jesus and upped his vow: “even if I have to die…” Here is another strong statement of loyalty and, again, Peter declares the strongest human resolve possible.
Then came the confrontations. First was a servant girl in the presence of many witnesses. She was the lowest and weakest of servants and the lowest member of society. Peter was unable to stand up to her! Next, another servant girl, farther removed from the crowd and Peter failed again. Finally, a group confronts him. Peter wilts under the pressure and adds curses and oaths to his denial!
A rooster crows, he remembers Jesus’ words and is powerfully convicted. Conviction and confession. He is confronted by his profound failure and he departed in grief and failure — overwhelmed with his own lack of strength.
Peter had the boldness to make a commitment and the boldness to put himself in a position to follow through. While the disciples scattered, Peter continued to follow. Unfortunately, he had no power to follow through.
This is often where we find ourselves, isn’t it? So, is there hope for us?
When we continue to follow Peter’s life, we see something change. It is the source of our hope as well.
When Peter was baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, boldness became part of his life! He didn’t wilt at all under pressure even when challenged by the ruling counsel.
Without Holy Spirit power, all our boldness will come to nothing!
It is important that we keep our eyes on the Good Shepherd. Too often we focus on the under-shepherd (our pastors and leaders). While the under-shepherd can still be ‘struck,’ the Good shepherd remains firm and strong.
The Holy Spirit helps us keep our focus on Jesus. With his power, we can be bold. When we rely on our own strength, we are likely to fail but his strength never fails. We must learn to trust in him!
Today, keep your focus on Jesus and ask for the Holy Spirit to empower you to live and to thrive!