Which of your mistakes haunts you the most? Peter denied he knew Jesus. To some folks, that’s no big deal. Compared to other big sins, giving in to fear seems like small potatoes. But to Peter, it was huge.
The book of Proverbs says no one knows the grief of the heart like one’s self (Proverbs 14:10). Peter’s denial struck to his very core. Hours earlier, he had promised he would never deny his Master. NEVER. Emotion had gushed out of Peter’s mouth in a full-on promise—a vow—that he would stay faithful.
The bitterest pill? Peter really believed he would.
Weakness begins by thinking we’re strong.
Prideful Promises Never End Well
On that dark night, late in Jesus’ Passion Week, Peter’s declaration went beyond a promise to a boast.
Bolstering his vow, Peter compared himself to the other apostles in the Upper Room. Their reactions never made it to print, but I doubt they would’ve agreed: “Peter, you’re right. You’re the strongest. When we’ve all turned tail and run, you’ll still be standing there with Jesus. Way to go.”
Peter’s boast took root in a disagreement that had festered among the Twelve all evening: Who is the greatest? With his declaration, Peter brought his position into the open: “Me! I’m the greatest. I will stand strong when all others have failed!”
Ironically, they “all said the same thing.” A collective blind spot plagued the group.
Going beyond a Firm Resolve
Just hours after Peter’s heartfelt declaration, he failed. But of course, all the disciples failed that night. Jesus’ words in Gethsemane had offered the solution to their problem, if only they had listened:
Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. —Mark 14:38
Jesus’ first followers during His Passion Week needed what we need today: prayer.
But the disciples didn’t see the need for prayer. After all, hadn’t they affirmed their commitment? Didn’t they really, really mean it?
I believe they did. But they failed to realize that strong resolve isn’t enough. Resolve falters when we face of the reality of temptation.
Finding a Strength Not Our Own
Peter’s spirit was willing, but he didn’t account for the weakness of his flesh—in spite of Jesus’ warning. Our willing spirits often find their thin roots in our emotions. We feel our commitments fiercely, but emotions change. Those roots easily snap.
Sure, a willing spirit’s a good place to start. (It’s better than an unwilling one!) But we need more. Along with our willingness to follow Christ, we need a humble spirit of dependence on Him.
How to Rely on God’s Strength
Peter himself eventually wrote down the equation for standing firm:
Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God . . . Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith. (1 Peter 5:6, 8–9)
Those words have a similar ring to Jesus’ in Gethsemane, don’t they?
Prayer gives us a humble spirit. Prayer gives us clarity in our thinking, forcing us to realize that God is the strong one. To walk humbly before Him, we must offer Him our lives by admitting our weakness—not by boasting in our strength.
But notice Peter didn’t simply say, “Humble yourself.” We must intentionally place ourselves under “the mighty hand of God.” His strength makes us strong. And humility opens the door for God’s strength to enter.
Prayer is both the confession that we need God’s strength and the invitation for His power to enter.
A Prayer for This Moment
You want to be faithful to Jesus. You have a passion for it—as I do. But we also have a weakness that is stronger than our resolve. If we fail to account for that weakness, we’re headed toward regret.
As we approach Easter, let’s heed Jesus’ words in Gethsemane that first Passion Week. Let’s ask for God’s help and humble ourselves under His mighty hand.
Let’s watch and pray.
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