As Peter stalked Jesus to watch the interrogation and trial, what was he thinking he was going to do? Help Jesus? The night before Jesus’ murder, the way he would sacrifice himself for the sin of the world, Jesus was captured and put on trial. Jesus and his disciples were in a garden called Gethsemane on a hillside just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. It was the middle of the night so most of the disciples were asleep. Jesus was pouring his heart out in anguish, fear, and extreme emotional suffering because he knew what was about to happen. When the soldiers marched with torches blazing and weapons clanging, it was Peter who sprang into action, cutting of the ear of a servant (possibly unarmed). What was he thinking? Did Peter really think he could help Jesus with his pitiful attempt at bravery? The disciples were
out-manned and out-gunned. Jesus rebuked Peter, “Put your sward away!” The disciples, including Peter, fled. This was not the first time Jesus rebuked Peter’s supposed bravery. Earlier, Jesus began to speak of his suffering in very specific detail. “21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt. 16:21). Peter washed over the “and on the third day be raised to life” detail and jumped at the “suffer many things...and...be killed....” “No way! Over my dead body! Not while I’m alive. This shall never happen to you!” Peter valiantly declared.
Fast forward to the trial. Why did Peter follow Jesus, his captured captain, to watch the interrogation? Was he simply curious? Did he regain his courage and dream up a daring escape plan where he would storm into the group and set Jesus free? It was a little girl, who’s job it was to watch the door, that crumpled tough and bold Peter to his knees. In the
firelight, she asked Peter if he was a follower and friend of this criminal. “No way!” he boasted, but on the inside I’m sure a small piece of his courage died. But Peter wasn’t the only disciple there watching Jesus that night. John was close by, which is why John was able to relay
the details. He was the one to vouch for Peter at the gate to convince the little girl to let Peter in. He was complicit in leading Peter into the trap that Jesus so warned against. John, by including himself in Peter’s moment of failure, admitted his own lack of bravery in the tense moment. You think you are so brave when you stand up for the cause, raise the flag of morality, fight for freedoms, but forget about the real fight is not for the Ten Commandments or keeping churches open and unscathed in the fight. The real fight is for the gospel of Jesus Christ to rise above the struggles. Jesus never predicted religious freedom or economic
success for Christians. Jesus predicted the opposite. Hardship, hatred, persecution, difficulty, and distress. This is the cross we carry. You think you are so brave to hide behind a screen and post away when the person (in the flesh) next to you needs the comfort of forgiveness.
I crumble. I am brave enough to stand up in front of a crowd when all eyes are on me, but I am afraid to make one simple phone call to reach out to a straying Christian. I shrink back from the conversation when I know it takes a wrong turn. Rather than attempt to steer it back and stand up for my Savior, I wait for the topic to change. I teach about sharing the faith, coach and give advice, but fail to take my own advice in the very same situation. My own personal
cross to carry is hard to lift and failure is hard to face. We all have failed to carry our cross for Jesus at times. At the sound of the rooster early that morning, Peter ran from the garden and sobbed because he realized that Jesus was right. Jesus predicted Peter’s cowardly denial. As Peter wept, I wonder if he recalled all the events of the past hours or days. If he did, perhaps he recalled the joyful entry in the Jerusalem five days earlier. On the trip into Jerusalem, there were traveler’s songs the Jews would sing for their big festival gatherings. The weekend of Jesus’ death was Passover. Many Jews from all over the known world flooded into the city. As they approached, they would sing a group of songs
called “The Songs of Ascent.” Psalm 121 is known as the traveler’s Psalm for that trip. As Peter searched into his inner bravery, he would not find his help. Help is only found in the LORD.
Your salvation does not depend on your ability to carry your cross. Your forgiveness isn’t weighed by the pounds you put on your shoulders. Your eternity isn’t measured by your ability to persuade your coworkers about biblical truth. Your salvation rests in the LORD.
He has the power to bring the entire universe into existence. He scripted the course of the stars and galaxies. He spoke into being the smallest particle. He waves his baton to make everything work together so that you personally are blessed through it. He will help you. He will guard you. Like Fort Knox, he guards your very life. He does not fall asleep on the job to keep you safe. Jesus didn’t fall asleep that hour in the garden. He was awake for the
long excruciating hours that lead up to the cross, long enough the forgive every insult hurled at him, every fist angrily shook in his direction, every bruise from the stick that beat him, every bit of flesh torn from the scourge that whipped him, every swing of the hammer to pound in the nails that hung him, every failure to stand up for him in the face of danger or ridicule. Jesus was wide awake through it all to finish the fight with the devil and defeat every evil that haunts you. He awoke at the resurrection to never sleep again so you remain safe.
The thoughts of the power of the Lord, his ability to guard (protect and watch over), and his wide-awake state are the main thoughts of Psalm 121 and perhaps were what brought Peter out of the pits of his failure. God strengthen you as you hear these words.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.