Today’s Reading: Matthew 25-26
Today’s Reflection: Matthew 26:31-35
31) 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.’ 32) But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33) Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34) Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35) Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Peter spoke these words on the fateful Passover evening before Jesus crucifixion—an event Peter and the rest of the disciples had no idea was about to happen. And this ignorance is stamped—writ large, as it were—in his words. Their boldness, brashness and bluster. Give Peter some credit. He did speak with the best of intentions. Unfortunately those intentions thinly covered over a faith that would fail when put to the test. Not long after Jesus spoke these words did they come to pass and Peter, who had so bravely promised to stand by Jesus until the end, found himself trying to hide and save himself. Ashad been the case at times before good intentions were just not enough. Remember this other well intentioned moment between Peter and Jesus?
Matthew 16:21-24 – 21) From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22) And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23) But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Those stinging words of rebuke from Jesus to Peter, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”, were just as relevant on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion as they had been those many months before. As Jesus contemplated the action that would seal man’s salvation but also cost Him His life and separate Him from His Heavenly Father for the first and only time in His existence, do you know what the disciples were talking about? Who would be the greatest of them all (Luke 22:24). After all of the lessons about humility and submission, the disciples were still consumed with ego, status and personal gain as demonstrated by Peter with his boastfulness, and worse yet by Judas who exchanged his loyalty for silver (Matthew 26:14-16).
Are we much better? How many times have we struggled with sins and bad habits and boldly proclaimed to God ‘this is the last time!’ only to find ourselves making the same mistakes over and over again. This happens when we try to do what Peter tried to do—be self-sufficient in our righteousness before God. We think we can know ourselves enough, strengthen ourselves enough, even using spiritual means at times, and think we can fortify ourselves against sin. But since in doing this the focus is on self, our minds are set on man and not on God. What did Jesus say to Peter after He rebuked him?
Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
We can’t conquer sin by focusing on self. In fact we have to deny self in order to truly follow Jesus. The only true mastery of self, is in mastering setting self aside in favour of submission to God. As difficult as this is Jesus gives us strength to do it, to become ‘super conquerors’ in His name ().
And Peter’s story should give us encouragement as well. Despite this ‘epic fail’ moment for Peter’s faith, Jesus assured him that the time would come when he would be responsible for strengthening and encouraging his brethren (Luke 22:32), ultimately becoming one of the key leaders in what would become the Christian church. If we can put aside self-assurance and master submission of self to Jesus, we too can do great things for the body of Christ.