Peter’s Bad Rap

Matthew 26

31“Tonight all of you will desert me,” Jesus told them. “For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

33Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”

34“Peter,” Jesus replied, “the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

35“No!” Peter insisted. “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

36Then Jesus brought them to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go on ahead to pray.” 37He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress. 38He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

39He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” 40Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 41Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!”

42Again he left them and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.” 43He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44So he went back to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said, “Still sleeping? Still resting? Look, the time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!”

. . . . .

69Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

70But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

71Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

73A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

74Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went away, crying bitterly. (Matthew 26:31-46; 69-75, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Under what circumstances might you deny Christ? What situation would cause you to abandon the faith and completely renounce Jesus?

If you said “Never”, maybe you should re-think your answer.

In this chapter of Matthew, Peter famously states that he would NEVER deny Jesus.

In fact, Jesus tells all of his disciples that they’re ALL going to desert Him.

Peter being the brash guy he is, responds by telling Jesus that even if EVERYONE ELSE deserts Jesus, He never will.

“You can count on me Jesus….I won’t let you down…I’m not like these other losers!”

We all know how the story unfolds after Jesus is arrested. Peter is confronted three times in the courtyard by different people who all believe that he is a member of the “Jesus” party and three times, Peter completely denies Jesus.

What I find interesting is that while Peter is famous for denying Jesus, there’s an oft-overlooked verse that demonstrates that Peter is getting a bad rap.

Verse 35 says that Peter was insisting that “even if I have to die with you I will never deny you.”

The text continues, “And all the other disciples vowed the same.”!

Peter takes the blame (rightly so) but the truth is that ALL the disciples vowed that they wouldn’t desert Jesus and yet that night ALL the disciples DID DESERT JESUS.

The only reason that Peter’s failures are highlighted over the other disciples’ is because Peter boldly declares his undying loyalty to Jesus in response to his prediction of desertion while the other disciples seemingly remain silent on the matter.

What can we learn from these insights?

For starters, we have to recognize our own capacity as fallen humans to fail in our devotion, regress in our spiritual development and to even deny Jesus among others.

If these disciples could desert Jesus after walking with Him for 3 years and observing Him perform miracles and healing people, then certainly we, as fellow broken humans who don’t have the benefits of personal interaction with Jesus, have the capacity to fail in our devotion to Him and possibly even deny Him in front of others.

Secondly, we have to be aware of the spiritual nature of our commitment to Jesus and the Christian life.

Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare Himself for the ordeal He is about to experience. While there, Jesus urges the disciples to keep alert and pray as well so that they might not fall into temptation. But each time Jesus returns, He finds the disciples are sleeping.

Prayer is a spiritual activity that connects us to God. It’s not just for making requests and uploading our material wish list of needs and desires to God. Prayer is an activity that reminds us of the spiritual nature of life. It attunes our minds to the forces and temptations that may seek to derail us. In short, prayer is a means of preparation for spiritual warfare.

Peter and the disciples slept instead of preparing themselves for what they might encounter and so when the moment of truth came just hours later, Peter was not as prepared as he thought to take a stand for Jesus in front of a hostile crowd.

Prayer is an activity of dependence where we express and exhibit our need to God. If you don’t think you’re in need, you won’t be inclined to pray, or if you do pray, it is likely a meaningless spiritual activity.

Do you want to avoid the failure of Peter and all the other disciples who denied Jesus on the night of His betrayal and arrest? First you need to recognize your weakness and capacity to fall into temptation. Once you recognize your deep need, you’ll be driven to your knees, inviting God to strengthen you and empower you to follow through in obedience to Him, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night!

Reflection

When is a time you denied Jesus in front of others or failed to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus? What were the circumstances? What were the factors that led to your denial or your silence?

Prayer is vital as a spiritual practice in preparing our hearts and minds to avoid temptations and circumstances that might cause us to deny Jesus and fall away. What has been your experience with prayer as a spiritual practice? What steps can you take to make prayer more integral in your life in preparing you for spiritual conflict?

Prayer is a means for preparing for spiritual conflict. What are some things that tend to be a conflict for you spiritually? What tends to tempt you or distract  you from God?

Why do you think some Christians fail to acknowledge their ongoing need for Jesus? What causes Christians to believe as Peter and all the other disciples did, that they cannot fail or fall away?

 

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

 

Does God Exact a Higher Standard for Rich People to Enter Heaven?

Matthew 19

16Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good things must I do to have eternal life?”

17“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “Only God is good. But to answer your question, you can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments.”

18“Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. 19Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

20“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22But when the young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 24I say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?”

28And Jesus replied, “I assure you that when I, the Son of Man, sit upon my glorious throne in the Kingdom, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life. 30But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then. (Matthew 19:16-30, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this famous story, a rich young man comes to Jesus and wants to know what good deeds he has to perform to inherit eternal life. It seems that many Jews of that time period believed that there were certain righteous acts that could guarantee salvation. This man wanted to know what the magic deeds were that would assure heavenly admittance.

Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments and when the young man asks which ones, Jesus repeats several of the 10 commandments.

The young man is puzzled because in his mind, he’s kept all of the commandments, so he asks Jesus, “what else must I do?”

Jesus seizes on this opportunity to show the person that he really hasn’t kept all the commandments. If it were possible for anyone to fully keep all the commandments, it would have been unnecessary for Jesus to come and redeem man in the first place.

So Jesus tells the young man that if he really wants to be perfect, or complete in his devotion to the law, then go and sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor.

The text says that the man walked away from Jesus sad because he was a person who own many possessions.

In debriefing this encounter with his disciples, Jesus says that it’s very hard for a rich person to get into heaven. In fact, Jesus makes the claim that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

So who can be saved?

This is exactly the question the disciples asked and it may be the question you’re asking as well.

What exactly is Jesus teaching? Does he really mean to communicate that it’s more difficult for rich people to enter heaven than others?

At first glance, this seems unfair and unjust, as if rich people have a higher standard they must meet in order to gain entrance into an eternity with God.

Jesus is not saying that rich people cannot go to Heaven; instead He’s making a statement about need and priority. Coming to Jesus and following Jesus is a matter of recognizing your need for Jesus and then forsaking everything else and making Him the priority in your life.

People who have a lot of possessions often have a harder time recognizing their need, since their material needs are already satisfied. In addition, if you own a lot of material possessions, you can become very attached to them. Hence, people who own a lot of things often have a harder time forsaking those things and making Jesus the center.  For this reason, it’s harder for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Look at what Peter says in verse 27:

“we’ve given up everything to follow you.”

This is the sentiment of following Jesus – giving up EVERYTHING!

It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are materially. What matters is being poor in spirit, which simply means that you recognize that you need a savior. If all of your needs are met and you’re feeling pretty content with life, you may have a harder time realizing that you’re a sinner who is in desperate need of help.

If you recognize your need for a savior then the next criteria is a willingness to make Jesus the priority. Jesus never makes selling all your possessions a prerequisite to being saved. He only made this comment to this person in order to bring about an awareness that didn’t exist before, namely, that this young man thought of himself as a person who was not a sinner, but someone who had always upheld every aspect of the Law.

The requirements and standards for getting into heaven are the same for everyone. But some people, who may see themselves as self-sufficient may have a harder time admitting a need for a savior. For people who are wealthy and self-sufficient, recognizing need and brokenness may prove to be harder than for people who are poor and more desperate.

Reflection

How are you doing with Jesus in terms of recognizing your need for a savior and your willingness to make Him a priority in your life?

What are the things that you hold most dear….those things that if Jesus were to ask you to forsake them, you might be tempted to walk away just as the rich young man did?  What is it about those things that make them so important and elevated in your life?

Peter asks a question in verse 27 – “what will we get out of it?”  What do you think most people are expecting to get out of this thing called Christianity? 

What do you think you are going to get out of Christianity?

 

Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash