To Fall or Not
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 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.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. —Matthew 26:30–35
It’s never easy to hear someone predict your failure. Right after the Last Supper, Jesus said to His disciples, “You will all fall away because of me this night.” That’s a stunningly clear prediction. Who? "You will all . . ." What? "Fall away." When? It’s going to happen tonight. Jesus knew their proneness to wander, and He knows ours.
What would have been a good response from Peter and the others?
Any one of them could have said, “Lord, I don’t want to do that! You know everything, so I have to take this very seriously. But I don’t want to fall away. How can we keep this from happening?”
You would think at least one of the disciples would have humbled himself, but none of them did. In fact,“Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’” Notice the blinding nature of overconfidence. When you are brashly optimistic about something, you are in danger of significant failure. Peter couldn’t see his own instability because he was so impulsively sure of himself. We can easily exhibit the same problem. Scripture says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The person who thinks, I will never wander or struggle. I won’t fall. I can handle this, is the person who really is in a very bad way.
Jesus gave Peter another chance, and He was so tender. Peter was trying so hard: "I don't care what you say. I’ll never fall away.” Jesus didn’t rebuke him. He wasn’t harsh or angry with him; He was firm and clear. “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” The Lord was saying,Not once. Not twice, Peter, but thrice. You say, not you? I say, you in particular. You say, never! I say, today!
Now, does Peter understand it? Does he recognize the warning? Does he slap his own forehead and say, “Okay, Lord. Help me! I don’t want to fall”?
No, he ups the ante: “Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same.” They were just following Peter’s lead—right over the cliff of overconfidence.
That exchange ought to concern us regarding how we respond to God. Here’s Peter, talking bold. How wrong is he? Dead wrong. But how right does he think he is? Totally right. He thinks he’s standing for Christ, but he’s bold in a paper bag. He’s completely blind to his own situation. He wants to hold his ground and doesn’t see the freight train coming!
We know what happened with Peter because we can read the gospel record. But Jesus knew beforehand, just like He knows your life and mine. He loves us before, during, and after our failures. And as He continues to do with Peter’s denial, He can use even our lowest, weakest moments to display His glory.
Because Jesus knows everything about you, there’s no need for pretense or excuses. You can ask Him for help at any point in the trials. The earlier you turn to Him, the more often you will avoid falling. Every opportunity for self-reliance is also an opportunity to depend on Him. And when you do fall, remember this—He didn’t give up on Peter and He won’t give up on you.
·In what areas of your life do your find yourself repeatedly failing to resist temptation?
·How have you surrendered those areas to Christ?
Lord, forgive me for those times when I am painfully just like Peter, so eager to do it right that I rely on my strength rather than recognizing how badly I need Your help to avoid tripping over my own words and actions. Thank You for Your constantly amazing patience and faithfulness. You know I’m going to stumble but don’t chide me when You’re helping me stand again. Teach me an eagerness to depend on You. In Jesus’ name, amen.