Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”
How many times do we have the tendency to be like Peter? We tell Jesus, “God, I will die for you!”’ or say similar crazy, intense stuff—a desire or a decision that burns inside us—only to have ourselves fail in the very thing we propose to do for the Lord. We mean what we say, and we believe we can do it, but what happens next? It’s as if God calls out our bluff.
I love Jesus’ answer: “Will you, really?” It wasn’t long before Peter’s test came. The disciple who wanted to die for the Lord ended up denying Jesus three times. Where was all this “dying for the Lord” when he couldn’t even say that he was with Jesus or that he knew Jesus?
I believe that Jesus, in a very loving way, did the most merciful thing He could do—He allowed Peter to see weakness and embrace humility. He had to rid Peter from an impulsion that wasn’t based on His Father’s perfect will, and guard him from a pride that so often comes with wanting to do something for the Lord. Defending the Lord sounds like a noble thing, but was that what God wanted him to do? And was Peter relying on his own strength to do something this audacious? Just the same, Jesus saw through Peter’s heart and knew the passion that burned inside the disciple. And I believe He marked him for it.
After Jesus had resurrected from the dead, He knew he had to address this issue. However, whatever passion Peter previously had was now a dying ember. Peter was ashamed. He knew he failed. He knew he denied the Lord instead of dying for Him. This new “version” of Peter was now weak. Nothing in him could brag about being a super disciple or of doing a noble deed.
Now that Peter was broken and humble, Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, asked him, “Do you truly love me?” I believe that Jesus asked Peter this question three times so that Peter would have a chance to rise in truth for the three times he had failed. Jesus knew the secret of empowering the dead passion in Peter. He was going to speak into Peter’s destiny despite the disciple’s failures. “Feed my lambs,” Jesus said. “Take care of my sheep,” He said. “Feed my sheep.” The Lord Jesus knew that this disciple who denied Him was still one with a mighty heart. Peter would do great things for the Lord in the power of Jesus’ name. The passion of Peter would have its greatest root in loving Jesus.
I find it amazing that God did not throw Peter’s desire to die for Him into the garbage can. In fact, Jesus knew something special about the future of Peter: Peter was indeed going to die for Him. Jesus said to Peter in John 21:18-19, “ ‘Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
History says that Peter was crucified upside down. This disciple who wanted to die for the Lord got his wish eventually. He died for the Lord—but this after living passionately for the Lord.
Whenever our hearts burn with passion to do something for the Lord, let us not forget that God will also test it. Not all of us will be called into martyrdom, but when love motivates us to burn passionately for the Lord, we will find ourselves tested and refined in whatever we find ourselves wanting to do for Him. We will go through our own little deaths.
Jesus will do this NOT to shame us, but to redeem us from ourselves. Whatever is of wood and stubble in our hearts; whatever is not of gold in our ways and thinking– Jesus will expose in His mercy. He will have to burn up the dross in us. He will have to show us that we can only do things in His strength. He will have to show us areas where His will differs from ours.
Jesus loved Peter so much. He loves us so much, too. Whatever passion we have in our hearts, Jesus, in His mercy, will always address.
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.