Jesus was about to be arrested and taken to trial and he told the disciples that on that very night they would all fall away. This was to fulfil the words of the prophets that said, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Verse 27)
The disciples quite horrified that Jesus would say such a thing and they vehemently denied that this would happen. Peter went so far as to say, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” To this Jesus responded that before the dawn and the crowing of the cock, Peter would go so far as to deny the Lord three times. Peter was again vehement saying, If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Verses 30-31)
Now Jesus knew better. He understood what these men would do, and although they did not know it at the time, it was necessary that they fall away and run away. Consider for a moment if they had stood their ground and then all been killed with the Lord. How would the gospel have been spread to the rest of the world? How would we have received the words of life today if the disciples had died on that night? No. Despite their protests to the contrary it was actually necessary that they run away so that the truth would be preserved and the message could be handed down.
This is not a foreign principle in the gospel either. The Lord does not expect us to stand and fight when we are in danger. It is acceptable to run when in peril. He instructed us as such saying, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” (Matthew 10:23) Despite the bravado and chest beating of the disciples, Jesus knew that when push came to shove they would run and save their own skins, and it was necessary they do so in order that they could later spread the gospel to the world.
As for Peter’s denial of Jesus, that too was understood by the Lord. In another version of this event he says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus knew that Peter would deny him despite Peter’s protestations that he would die with Jesus first. Did Jesus condemn Peter for his weakness? No, instead he said when you have turned again, that is, when he had repented, strengthen those around him. They would all be in shock and torment over the loss of the Lord and their Teacher. But the Lord was commissioning Peter saying that when he had overcome his grief and guilt, which the Lord was not going to hold against him, that he should work with the rest of the disciples to help them to move forward. They had a work to do and the Lord knew Peter had the strength to carry the rest through after he got himself sorted out.
There are times when we too, like Peter, can be faithless and may deny what we believe. Should we wallow in guilt and despair? No. Like Peter we too need to repent so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. For the Lord has promised to be with us even when we make mistakes. We are shown this by Paul saying, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
So let us put our trust and faith in the Lord. Let us hold onto our faith so that we can be strengthened in the Lord. And finally let us remember that when we fall, not to give up but to come back to him in repentance as Peter did so we can be strengthened and learn from our mistakes and move forward.
(Picture sourced from Christians Unite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)