You may have heard the quote “If you want to know who your friends are, make a mistake”. Implied in this quote is the idea that when it becomes more difficult, more embarrassing or more costly to be your friend you discover who your real friends are. It is those who stand by you when you’re a problem who make the difference.
In work, when you make a stand against a bad practice, whistle-blow or stand up for what is right you can find people slowly pulling away, distancing themselves from you in order to stay safe.
When the Son of Man allowed himself to be arrested in the olive grove it would not be labeled a mistake, but it certainly made it much harder for one of his best friends, Peter, to stay loyal. Only hours after swearing love for his friend and even trying to fight for him, Peter is vehemently denying that he even knew him. This is a well-known story that literally ends in tears
How did the Son of Man keep his shape in the face of this painful act of disloyalty from one of his closest friends and team members?
By now you’ll not be surprised that the Son of Man has already spent three years emphasizing the importance of loyalty to the point of love. They will know your mine if you love one another, or, you will love me by obeying my command, which of course was all about love. Again, Jesus showed his loyalty to them by defending them in the face of constant criticism.
So by the time they reached the garden they all had a knowledge of how important love and loyalty was in their leader’s mind.
After his constant teaching also came his warnings to them all that they would fall away. In Peter’s case, he received two specific warnings. Jesus told Peter that an unseen enemy wanted to sift him like wheat. Jesus, the carpenter spoke to Peter, the fisherman, using a farming image. He wanted Peter to think hard about this warning.
Later, the Son of Man gave Peter a specific warning that he would fail three times – an assessment that Peter disputed.
I want to add two key factors that emerge in this story to show you how the Son of Man kept his shape. These are a prayer and a look. While Jesus warned Peter about the unseen enemy, he also told him “I have prayed for you”. Second, just after Peter had denied him three times Jesus turned and looked at him. It was that look that triggered his tears. It is the fact of Peter’s tears that tells you the look was full of love. It was not judgmental anger or self-righteous condemnation, Peter could have coped with that and even expected it. The surprise was the love in the eyes of Jesus.
Peter was not sifted like wheat for, as you know, he was rehabilitated back into the team.
The Son of Man kept his shape by praying for his weak-willed friend and then looking at him with love. I suggest to you that in that look Jesus also saw the difference between denial and betrayal. The denial was a moment of fear based behavior; Peter really was in danger, whereas betrayal was a calculated act of defection.
In the face of disloyalty Jesus discerned the unseen hands and prayed while maintaining his own love and loyalty, even when he was under immense pressure.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
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