Have you ever considered the fact that God doesn’t owe us understanding in all things, but we owe Him our faith in all things? Tweet this! God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He may choose not to enlighten us on certain things and still require us to trust Him. And we can, because of who He is and His unchanging character.
Even when we don’t understand God or can’t reconcile scripture to our satisfaction, we can strengthening our faith by standing firm in what we know absolutely about God and drawing into Him and His word for clarity. We may not get an exact answer, but when we approach His word with a humble desire that He show us His truth, He is always faithful.
I asked the Lord to give me understanding to know what happened with Peter, how he gets away with denying Jesus when Jesus Himself warns against it, because in my flesh, I want to know that if I fail Jesus, He will forgive and still use me too. To some degree, don’t we all want to know that? I didn’t find that scripture, but the Holy Spirit did illuminate eight interesting insights that shed a little light on Peter’s story.
Eight Interesting Insights from Peter’s Denial of Jesus
1. Some things happen simply because scripture says they will, and things will happen just as scripture says. Jesus explains to His disciples in Matthew 26:31:
“All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
Again in Matthew 26:56, when the soldiers seize Jesus, He says:
“But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
It could not have happened any other way.
2. When Jesus tells His disciples they will deny Him (Matthew 26:31 above), he uses the word stumble.
In the King James Version, the phrase is shall be offended, which is the Greek word skandalizō. Sounds awfully close to our English word scandalous, doesn’t it? It refers to something that offends us and becomes a hindrance to trusting or obeying someone or something we should or causes us to fall away from a certain path or belief.
All of Jesus’ disciples stumble after His betrayal and arrest.
“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).
We stumble, too, don’t we? Every time we know we need to speak the gospel and we don’t. Every time the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray for someone and we’re scared we might offend them, feel awkward, or look weird? Every time we stand around and say nothing while people, even our Christian friends, gossip? Every time we join in talk or behavior we know isn’t glorifying to God and therefore hurts our witness for Jesus, and we do it anyways because we don’t want to face ridicule or rejection? Someone or something hinders us from trusting or following Jesus in that moment, and we stumble. Just like Peter.
3. Satan asks for Peter.
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
Jesus has Peter’s back. He knows Peter will stumble but not ultimately fail. He prays for his faith that he will be able to do what Jesus has for him to do when he returns to Him. He is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us, too!
4. We aren’t living our lives only before an earthly audience.
Just as Satan asks for Peter, he asks for Job, challenging God to let Job suffer unimaginable, unexplainable loss to see if Job will remain faithful. Why would God allow Satan any freedom in our lives? According to Ephesians 3:8-12, God is making known His manifold wisdom by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. We may never understand it, but we are being watched by those we can’t see according to “the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
5. Peter does not renounce his faith; he lies about knowing Jesus.
This may be semantics, but all three times, Peter either acts like he has no idea what his accusers are talking about, or he emphatically insists, “I do not know the man!” He does not give a final, resolute refusal to the invitation to put his faith in Jesus, and he does not give a final, resolute denial that Jesus is Lord.
He is accused of being Jesus’ follower, and he acts like he isn’t. Again, don’t we do this ourselves in every stumbling scenario given in no. 2 above?
6. Peter did not have the power of the Holy Spirit.
To me, this is the clincher. After Jesus tells Peter he will deny Him three times, He tells the disciples to expect persecution. To expect people to hate them because they hated Jesus, and He explains how they’ll be able to withstand:
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning (John 15:26-27).
When Peter denies Jesus, He had not died and been resurrected yet; the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent. After the resurrection, it is a whole different story!
We find Peter behind closed doors with the disciples and those who are gathered with them, and Jesus appears out of nowhere, reveals Himself as the risen Lord, opens their understanding of the scriptures, breathes on them, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 18:22).
Luke 24:49 sheds additional light on the coming of the Holy Spirit when Jesus tells the disciples, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
When they stumbled, they did not yet have the Holy Spirit. Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and they continued in hiding. But after the Holy Spirit came and endued them with power from on high, they boldly testify Jesus!
We have the Holy Spirit. And Jesus assures us in Luke 12:11-12, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Should we face persecution or the choice of denying Jesus or dying for Him, we can know this: the Holy Spirit will give us the power and the exact words to do whatever God calls us to do.
7. Even if Peter had the power to proclaim Jesus when confronted, he couldn’t go with Jesus, because the cross was only for Him.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward” (John 13:36).
8. Scripture tells us repeatedly that he who endures to the end shall be saved.
Clearly, it wasn’t Peter’s end, and when it was, he died a martyr’s death, on a cross, like His savior. He endured to the end.
Are you as encouraged as I am? Because one thing we can count on for sure is that God will see us to the very end. Even if we can’t see how today, we can still know He will. We can trust Him, we can trust His word, and we can endure.
Lord, thank You for the incredible insights You offer in Your word. It is the only truth we can trust. Please continue to teach, tutor, and equip us through scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to endure to the end, whatever end that might be. We love You and seek to bring You glory to that end.
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FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
1. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Our relationship with the Lord requires trust, knowing that we’re not always going to have answers or understand Him. How does this scripture help you trust God?
2. Speaking to His disciples in Matthew 26:31, Jesus says: “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” In the Greek, He’s saying they will all be hindered in their trust and obedience to Him. Can you see how we’re all like the disciples? Like Peter? In what way?
3. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples are behind closed doors when Jesus appears out of nowhere, reveals Himself as the risen Lord, opens their understanding of the scriptures, breathes on them, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 18:22). Yet according to Luke 24:49, He tells them, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” What is the difference? What does it mean to us that we are endued with power from on high?
4. Jesus assures us in Luke 12:11-12, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” What does that tell us we can expect should we face persecution and even death?