You have to tip your cap to Simon Peter. Standing in a secluded olive grove in the middle of the night, he was suddenly confronted by “the leading priests and Pharisees . . . a battalion of Roman soldiers and Temple guards . . . with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons” (John 18:3). They had come for Jesus. Undaunted, Peter stepped forward and pulled out his sword. Remember, he was facing a battalion of tough, trained, and armed Roman soldiers. Undeterred by the impossible odds stacked against him, Peter took a swing at the nearest target—an unfortunate servant named Malchus, whose ear he promptly severed. Before he had time to turn his attention to anyone else, and before the startled guard could react, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?” (18:11).
Peter had an abundance of raw male courage but a marked lack of spiritual insight. On a scale of 1 to 10, Peter registered a ringing 10 in what passes for real masculinity. No one was going to intimidate him, and no one was going to harm his friend. Sadly, though, he registered a 0 for spiritual insight in this instance.
Peter had been told repeatedly that Jesus would suffer. Only a little while earlier, he had eaten a farewell supper with Jesus during which the Master had carefully explained that he was about to be betrayed (14:18-30). In fact, Jesus had identified the betrayer, Judas Iscariot (13:26). Jesus had also told Peter, “In just a little while I will be gone, and you won’t see me anymore. Then, just a little while after that, you will see me again” (16:16). But none of this apparently registered. Peter was more at home swinging a sword against overwhelming odds than unraveling the mysteries of spiritual truth. In our day men say, “No guts, no glory.” Peter showed the guts but missed the glory.
Things didn’t improve, either. As Jesus was led away, Peter “followed along behind” and found himself in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, standing by a fire (18:15-19.) When challenged about his association with the prisoner, he denied it—three times. The man who had faced down a Roman battalion could not stand up to onlookers’ questions.
Like many a man, Peter’s courage was spotty. He would take a swing at anyone, but taking a stand was more problematic. Sometimes the challenge for the Christian is more in demonstrating moral and spiritual courage than in braving and fighting a physical confrontation.
For Further Study: John 18:1-27
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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