John 13:36-38 (NIV)
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
The disicples had shared two previous Passover meals with Jesus, but they had never experienced ones like this! A somberness had descended over the whole group because of the predictions Jesus was making. His latest, that He was going away to a place where the disciples couldn’t follow Him really struck their hearts.
Peter gave voice to all their thoughts: “Lord, where are you going?” They had been together for so long, and the people seemed to be starting to catch on. Where would He go, and why now, when things were finally starting to move forward?
Jesus’ answer didn’t give the information that they all wanted. No destination was given, merely a restatement that He was leaving, and they would not be able to follow Him right then. He did hold out hope that they would follow Him to His new destination later, a statement that He further described in 14:1-3.
But Peter pushed back. He had followed Jesus for more than three years at this point and had left his family and his livelihood behind to do it (Mark 10:28). He surely wasn’t going to turn back now! He was even willing to die for Jesus, if necessary.
But Jesus had seen the future. He knew precisely what was in the hearts of Peter and the rest, and what they would do when the pressure was on. Despite their protestations of faithfulness, He knew that their instincts for self-preservation would quickly overrule their faithfulness when the chips were down.
Most painful for Peter was Jesus’ final prediction: that before the sun rose the following morning, Peter was going to deny even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. At the moment Peter couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen. He believed that he knew his own heart. He believed every word when he said that he would die for Jesus in that very moment. But he was wrong.
Father, it is easy for all of us to believe we are more steadfast in our relationship with You than is really the case. But, if we try to stand on those declarations in our own strength, we are doomed to failure, something that Peter discovered too late. Lord, help us to stand for You, not in our own strength, but in Your strength, so that when the day of testing comes, we will stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).
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