Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you say down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.’ (John 13:37-38)
The account of Peter’s declaration of his willingness to die for his Lord is one that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Peter has good intentions that the Lord sees straight through. Jesus knows Peter’s desires, but he also knows his weaknesses. He knows the sins of denial that Peter is about to commit.
We like to make bold claims for our Lord. But often, our eyes are bigger than our stomach. We believe we are much more capable than we actually are many times. We downplay our capacity for sin and we bank our stalwart abilities to do what’s right. We look at ourselves and think “Pshh, I could do that.” In other words, too often we are woefully self-dependent.
This story has the piercing ability to cut through self-sufficiency and self-reliance and bring us to our knees before the cross. Here are three reflections on the little story:
1. God already knows when we will sin, and what the sin will be. It is clear to him. And Jesus doesn’t forsake us because of it– his love for us doesn’t change–he still goes to the cross. O what a savior!
2. God is not dependent on our obedience to accomplish his purposes— in fact, our failures can be used for good. For example– in the Luke account of the story Jesus said to Peter, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (22:32). His ability to strengthen the brothers came after he was broken. It is good to get broken now and again.
3. Good intentions, commitments, or aspirations to obedience don’t mean anything. The obedience that matters is the obedience you incarnate– not the kind you hypothetically will do if such-and-such happens.
“When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin.” Hope in the gospel, even when your adversary the devil tells you otherwise.