Fear and Weakness

April 4, 2022

Peter said to Him, "Even though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away, I will lay down my life for You." Jesus said to him, "Will you lay down your life for Me? (Matthew 26:33; Mark 14:29; John 13:37-38).

In Peter’s conversation with Jesus, we see a man who is dead serious in his expression of loyalty to the Master. This was not false bravado. He was honest and sincere. But he was also safe in the upper room with Jesus and the other disciples. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the Temple soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, Peter pulled his sword, ready to defend the Lord. But Jesus was standing right there with him and the other disciples - still a fairly safe position. However, when he is separated from Jesus and the other disciples in the courtyard of the High Priest, standing among Roman soldiers, Peter denied the Lord three times.

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him. He even questioned Peter’s loyalty by asking, Will you lay down your life for Me?, not because He didn’t know, but because He did know and He wanted to challenge the reality of Peter’s faith. This is one of the great things about a Christian’s relationship to Jesus - He tests us in our faith, not to prove us weak, but to strengthen us by causing us to examine ourselves, to help us cut through the fantasy of ‘what I think I am’ and face the reality of ‘what I really am’, of ‘what I think I will do’ and the reality of ‘what I most likely will do’. Our Lord is not mean or cold hearted when He tests us. No. He is loving and gracious and merciful because He wants us to trust and depend upon Him and not ourselves, to live in His strength and not our own.

After declaring his staunch loyalty to Jesus, why did Peter falter? Why did he deny the Lord a few hours later? Two reasons - weakness and fear. After leaving the upper room, Jesus took the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. He told them to stay awake and pray while He went off to pray alone. When He returned, He found them sleeping. He warned Peter to stay awake and pray because, although his spirit was willing, his flesh was weak. But Peter fell asleep again. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, it was too late to pray for the strength to face what lay ahead. Peter’s failure to pray for courage and strength caused him to be weak in the midst of crisis.

A second reason for Peter’s failure was fear. Even though all the others had fled for their lives (Mark 14:50), Peter still followed Jesus after He was arrested - but he kept his distance so as not to be identified with Jesus (Mark 14:54). Why? He was afraid. From the courtyard, Peter watched as Jesus was falsely accused, beaten, insulted, and condemned (Mark 14:57-66). Peter was afraid Jesus would die; he was afraid he would die as well. But he said he would die with Jesus! He said, I will lay down my life for You! That’s when he was face to face with Jesus and in front of the other disciples. We are often bold and brash in the company of those who are like minded and supportive of our position. Peter quickly found out he wasn’t nearly as confident and courageous as he thought and said when he was separated from Jesus and the other disciples. Weakness and fear are deadly to one’s faith in the Lord as we live in a world that hates Him and us. Amen.


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