31 “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has asserted the right to sift you all like wheat. 32 However, I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail. When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters.”
33 Peter responded, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster won’t crow today before you have denied three times that you know me.”
If Peter didn’t make such a bold claim as, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” would Jesus have actually told him that he was going to betray Him? I’m not so sure. When we look at this story, we always focus on Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s denial, but let’s look more closely at what Jesus is telling Simon:
Verse 31 is actually towards the end of a long speech Jesus is giving to the disciples prompted by their fighting over which of them is the greatest. Jesus sort of just refocuses the group away from this petty topic, to more important things. He gives a “the first will be last, the last will be first” kind of speech, then transitions into praising them all for their discipleship and foreseeing their place in God’s Kingdom – sounds great! No need for proving you’re better than your friend!
I then wonder what it was that Simon said or did but then Jesus goes, “Simon, Simon, look!” Maybe he got distracted by something else and Jesus had to draw his attention back. But Jesus says that the adversary is trying to divide the disciples, but that Jesus has prayed that their faith is strong enough to rise above evil’s temptations and that instead of fighting with each other about who is better, they should be strengthening each other. THAT was the point Jesus was trying to make, to not bother with who does what better but to strengthen each other’s faith so that evil cannot win. Was Jesus then planning on telling Peter anything about how weak his faith was that he would deny Jesus out of fear and embarrassment? I want to lean towards no.
Peter does what we all do from time to time, he says what we say when we see a movie or watch the news. We say, “I’d never do that, I’d definitely do the right thing – not the wrong thing.” But let’s be honest, how often do we know what the right thing to do is but then choose the wrong thing? Maybe it’s out of fear or embarrassment too, but we can relate to Peter’s choice.
Perhaps instead of making claims that we’re so great that we would always do the best thing possible, maybe we should use that energy in prayer and fellowship to strengthen each other’s faith.
by Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
Has someone ever strengthened your faith? Maybe it was an act of kindness, a powerful word, or just their presence during a difficult time. How can you strengthen someone else in that same way?
Prayer: Holy God, you have prayed for our faith to be strengthened. You have not bothered with silly things like greatness and focused on goodness. Thank you. May we live in that truth. Amen.