Dinner is concluding for Jesus and His disciples. They sing a closing hymn, maybe the traditional closing hymn of Passover, and then head out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus seems to have an affinity for this setting. He often went there for private time with His disciples. The Garden of Gethsemane is also located on the lower slopes of this mountain. This time He and the disciples go there for another heart to heart talk.
It is just hours before all the trials will begin. Jesus can feel the burning of the coming kiss before it even arrives. His heart is heavy as He walks the path up the mountain. Jesus stops along the path and settles Himself on a large rock. The disciples cluster around Him. Some are standing, some join Him on other nearby stones, and some recline against trees. It is quiet now. Everyone simply sits with his own thoughts.
Jesus breaks the silence. “You all will leave me tonight. Prophecy has foretold it. It is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I rise from the dead we will meet up again in Galilee.” Jesus’ words are spoken with absolute certainty.
Peter looks at Jesus and shakes his head. “I will never leave You, no matter what the others do. They might fall away, but I will NOT.”
A tear appears in Jesus’ eye as He looks directly into Peter’s eyes. “Peter, this very night You are going to deny even knowing me three times before the rooster even crows.”
Peter feels as if he has just been struck in the face! How could Jesus believe that of him? After all that they have been through together! This time Jesus is wrong! No way would Peter ever do that! “If I have to die with You, I will NEVER deny You!”
All the other disciples join in with Peter. They make the same pledge to Jesus. It is not worth arguing about. Peter needed this warning because of his arrogance and the great fall that was just ahead for him. Tonight he is going to be brought down low and this night will forever alter Peter’s life. Jesus says a silent prayer for Peter. “Help him hold on until I get back to them. He will be in great pain Father from the guilt of what he is about to do. Keep him safe. Don’t let him destroy himself as Judas will.”
Even with all this pressing down on Jesus, He still thinks of His disciples. He knows they don’t understand what is coming and that they are having a very hard time listening to what He is telling them. They are looking for any other meaning to what Jesus has been talking about.
Peter is sure he has made his intentions clear to Jesus. Jesus can count on him, no matter what. Peter contemplates Jesus’ words about His death. He thinks back to the first time Jesus mentioned dying. He remembers the rebuke he got that day for challenging Him. It still stings a bit when he recalls the words Jesus spoke to him. “Get thee behind me Satan, for you have your mind set on the things of man and not on the things of Heaven.” Peter has let Jesus’ other predictions of His death go unchallenged. Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus is so sure He is going to be killed; crucified even. It doesn’t make any sense. Yes, Peter recognizes the friction between Jesus and the religious leaders, but surely they wouldn’t try anything so bold as to try and have Jesus killed by the Romans. The Romans were the ones who crucified people, not the Jews. Stoning maybe, but crucifixion? Never. And what is with this talk of “falling away?” We have left everything to follow Him. How could He think we would be so disloyal? Besides, where would we go?
After the disciples all calm down again, Jesus stands and begins walking again. He is slowly making His way to His favorite garden spot. He is moving as if the weight of the whole world were pressing down on Him.
Father God, I can’t imagine the heartache Jesus was carrying at that moment. Or the pain His disciples experienced with His remarks. “How could Jesus have such a low opinion of me? To think I would desert Him in His hour of need.” I would have been swearing my allegiance right along with His disciples. But we know how right on point Jesus’ statements were that night. We see the evidence, being on this side of the events. I wonder if all of His disciples felt as deeply as Peter did about his commitment or if they just parroted Peter’s “convincing statement.” Peter did try and stand by Your side. He was ready to fight his way out with You. But once again, You would step in and change his direction.
I have several things I want to ask You about Peter and his behavior, but I’m going to hold off until we get to the place in Your word where Peter denies knowing Jesus. This story has me thinking about what was going through Peter’s head differently than I ever did before. Please bring these questions back to my mind at the proper time. I really want to look at them again, when it is time.