Doctor Luke records the evening before Jesus’ crucifixion; His last Passover with the 12 disciples. Simon Peter, like the others failed to understand the significance of this last dinner with Jesus. But Judas, he understood perfectly. The 11 were focused on the happenings of the here and now, instead of listening to Jesus words about the bigger picture.
Peter’s head must have been spinning that evening. A week earlier a “large crowd …heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’” (John 12:12-13). The thing is, Jesus’ “disciples did not understand these things” (John 12:16). Then, sometime during the week following, Satan “entered into Judas called Iscariot… He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Jesus to them” (Luke 22:3-4).
This had been some week! And now the disciples, including Judas, were reclining while eating roast lamb of the Passover with Jesus. Then, Jesus drops the first bombshell; “behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. …but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this” (Luke 22:21-23). All except Judas were in shock at such an absurd thought; betray Jesus? No, none of us Lord!
Incredibly, while squabbling over their loyalty to Jesus; “a dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Sin has this terrible ability of placing self at the centre of everything. Peter, with the others, was caught in this downward spiralling Passover celebration. Then Jesus dropped the big one which would expose Peter’s own deceptive heart.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32a). The enemy of God was also focusing his evil intent on Peter that evening. But Satan cannot operate outside of God’s knowledge or boundaries.
Jesus could have prayed for Peter’s deliverance, release, success, or any other tangible blessing, but no! Jesus didn’t even pray for Satan to be bound (whatever that means?). No, faithfulness was Jesus primary interest for Simon Peter. What a challenge this is for us. We want all sorts of self-centred things from the Lord when under attack; but the Lord simply wants faithfulness!
Jesus then affirmed the Father had already answered His prayer. Jesus strengthens Peter’s faith in advance by informing him that “when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32b). Peter, thinking he had this faith thing sorted, tells Jesus not to worry; “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
So, Jesus clarifies what’s about to happen; “Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34). WOW! Sin was looking for a breach in Peter’s self-confident faith, and it would find it.
As we shall continue to learn from Peter, the Lord’s grace is amazing. Jesus’ love is secure just as Paul says; “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Despite Peter, Jesus would ensure his faith survived, would be more resilient, and he would be a faith strengthener of others. This is precisely our trust in Jesus today. I encourage you to surrender to Jesus sufficiency during your most painful times. (To be continued).