Learning from Peter

What a contrast between Peter and his Master! When Peter and the others ran away, Jesus walked forward to meet His betrayer and the thugs he brought to arrest Him (26:46-56; John 18:48). While Peter denied even knowing Christ, Jesus confessed that He was the Son of God, fully cognizant of the consequences (26:63-64). Humanly speaking, what led to these starkly opposite responses? The most significant, of course, is that Jesus had the Spirit of God and Peter did not. The Lord’s victory in the wilderness, like His triumphs during His arrest, trial, and sufferings, came from the anointing with the Spirit which was given Him at His baptism (3:16). Peter, on the other hand, did not receive the Spirit until the Day of Pentecost, as Jesus had promised (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4, 38). On that day, he and the other apostles received repentance unto life; they fully trusted in Christ; they received the Spirit; they were born again; they were “saved” (Matthew 3:11; Acts 10:43-45, 47; 11:14-18; John 3:3, 5; see also Romans 8:9-10). We should note that after Pentecost Peter never again denied his Lord, but boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to those who had killed Jesus ( Acts 2:14-40;3:11-26; 4:1-31). Still, we can learn from Peter’s failure on the night when Jesus was betrayed. Jesus overcame temptation in the wilderness by quoting the Word of God, upon which he had clearly meditated at length (Matthew 4:3-10). Peter obviously had failed to ponder the warnings Jesus had given him that he would betray Christ three times (26:34). Faced with a terrible temptation, Jesus prayed. Peter slept when he should have been begging for strength to overcome Satan’s wiles (26:39-45; 6:13). Rather than following Jesus closely, as John did, he followed “at a distance” (26:58; John 18:15-16). He placed himself in the midst of God’s enemies, forgetting his spiritual weakness and vulnerability (Matthew 26:41), and perhaps trusting in his own ability to defend himself, as he had tried to protect Jesus in the Garden (26:51). Years later, obviously having learned his lessons, he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).