Untested Loyalty


When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ All the others said the same. (Mark 14: 26-31)

Why did Jesus sound a warning like that? There was no doubt that Peter was very sincere in his declaration of loyalty. Weren’t they all at that moment? Unlike Judas, who had every intention of betraying Jesus, Peter had no such plan of ever denying his association with Him. Why would he? He didn’t have a bone to pick with Him. He may not have always agreed with Him or even understood Him, but there was no doubt about his commitment of loyalty to Him.

Peter adored Jesus, so much so that he did everything in his power to impress Him. Did you notice that when you read the gospels? He was Peter, the “motor mouth”. If there was anything to be said, Peter said it. He was the spokesman for the group. On behalf of them all, he declared without hesitation, in response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” No doubt they had discussed it among themselves when His words and actions baffled them.

There was no way that He could be just an ordinary man. Never could a man, in all their history, not even the most powerful of prophets, hold a candle to Him. It was not only His words and actions that held them spellbound but also His very nature, revealing the mercy, compassion and love they had never experienced before. There was nothing in Him that resembled other men, and yet He was all man. They were mesmerised by Him.

So, at that moment, in the face of His declaration, they could not think of doing something as dastardly as disowning Him. Their intentions were of the best, but they did not know themselves.

But why was Peter singled out for a warning when they would all be in it together? After all, which was worse – verbally disowning Him or running away when He needed their support. It was one and the same thing.

Peter had to take the rap because Peter was the blabbermouth as usual. The others took their cue from him. We must not forget that these men were very young, probably not much older than teenagers. Rabbis chose their disciples, not from the seasoned scholars but from among the learner rabbis. Jesus, no doubt also looked for the young ones – those He could mould into His image before they became too set in their ways. Perhaps one like Matthew might have been a bit older, in his late twenties, but the rest were still apprentices on the journey of life – untested and inexperienced in handling crises.

Once before, Jesus had warned Peter about Satan’s intention, but he brushed it off with no comment, obviously not really taking His words seriously. Jesus had indicated that He was not perturbed – in fact He promised to pray for him, not to get him out of the test but to pass the test so that he could use the experience to support others when they were tested.

This was the crux of the matter. It was imperative that Peter and his fellow disciples be tested. That they failed was not the issue. They had to experience the test because it was part of their maturing process. Failure was far more important than success. Failure imprints the lesson far more deeply than success. Peter’s protestation of loyalty, backed up by the others meant nothing without putting it to the test. He had to feel the shame of failure. He had to taste the sweetness of the Master’s forgiveness and the realisation that the love of his Master did not depend on his performance but on His character. Peter could not fail himself out of his union with Jesus.

Peter had to learn that it was love for Jesus, not his will power that would steady him in the storms of life. The greatest commandment, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ still stands as the solid rock upon which loyalty is built. Everything else is but shifting sand.

‘If you love me,’ Jesus said, ‘you will do what I command you.’

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Luella Campbell

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