27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. Mark 14:27-31

There are two ways of being ready for all eventualities; either through blustering self-confidence or by being alert and forearmed for danger. Peter was full of arrogant self-confidence, not really hearing Jesus’ warning but feeling that he could handle anything. Mark added that the other disciples were not far behind Peter.

The trouble with this kind of attitude is that it hears nothing but the sound of its own voice. It is too full of itself to listen to the warning and to be aware of its own weakness, much less to be on the alert and follow the counsel of the Holy Spirit… This is a set-up for a very necessary exposure of pride and a wake-up call to face reality. Jesus understood human nature and even if He did not have the foresight about Peter’s crash (which He did), it was inevitable because it was the devil’s modus operandi. He had warned Peter once before but it is clear that Peter was deaf to His words.

How does this process of exposure work? Jesus put it in a nutshell. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Perhaps Peter was sincere in his expression of loyalty to Jesus but he did not know himself or how weak his flesh was when it was threatened or challenged. The only way he could understand his true self would be to fall into the trap his own words has set.

Jesus’ attitude is amazing. He did not look upon Peter’s failure as an irreparable disaster but as part of Peter’s journey. This was about Peter and about the process he needed to go through to become an imitator of Jesus. It always is, but for Jesus it was a welcome hurdle Peter had to get over, and Jesus was there to accompany him so that he would not crash out as Judas had done through his own blindness. Jesus’ tender restoration of Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee reflects again the character of the Father, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and faithfulness.

Peter learned his lesson well. We must not forget that the apostles wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, out of a wealth of personal experience. Paul, for example, could say, “I have learned…” and “We know…”  Peter learned humility and submission the hard way, but it was a lesson he never forgot. O yes, failure, not success and achievement, is always the best teacher.

Luella Campbell

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