Jesus Knows He'll Muck It Up
"Impulsive master of misunderstanding / You comfort me with all your big mistakes / Jumping the ship before you make the landing / Placing the bet before you know the stakes." —Malcolm Guite
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
What does this story tell me about Jesus?
There was a turbulent future before the little band and specifically before Peter. Jesus’ repetition of His servant’s name Simon, Simon gives the address a solemn Emphasis. Jesus goes on to assure Peter that He has prayed for him [the you is singular in this instance]. Notice that the master did not ask that His servant might be freed from trouble. The undergoing of difficulty and hardship is an integral part of the Christian way… [Peter] is given the assurance of might intercession on his behalf.
Peter realizes neither the seriousness of the position nor his own weakness. Brashly he declares his readiness to die for Jesus if need be. But Jesus knew His disciple better than he knew himself. This is the one occasion on which He is recorded as addressing him as Peter.”
Leon Morris, in his commentary on Luke
How does this passage help me make sense of my own story?
Four things catch my attention in this story (which we’ll come back to on Saturday).
Jesus prays for him. And Jesus intercedes for us.
Jesus assumes Peter’s restoration after his failure, and that it will serve a purpose.
Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows himself. And Jesus knows our innermost being, including the dark parts, that parts we don’t (or can’t) fully acknowledge ourselves. And that knowledge does not prompt him to move away from us. He still chooses to talk with us and know us.
Jesus calls him Peter, reminding him of what He promised, that Peter would be the rock of the church. We’ll see on Saturday that Peter does indeed deny Jesus. When asked by a servant girl outside the court if he knows Jesus, Peter claims he does not. A stark contrast from the man with a bold declaration that he was prepared to die for Jesus.
I wonder if Peter returned to this conversation with Jesus in that period following his own denial and Jesus’ resurrection. I have to think he was filled with shame; we know he “wept bitterly.” I wonder if Jesus’ calling him Peter in this exchange served as a dim light drawing him out of the darkness of his guilt, reminding him of what Jesus had promised and who he claimed to be.
These are mere wonderings. And yet they point to the truth that Jesus is never surprised by us. Even in our failures when we should have known better and/or done better, he goes before us. And because he holds the power over death, no situation is without hope.
As Robert Farrar Capon puts it: “At the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.”
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