Peter meant every word.
He really believed it.
That’s where we have to begin.
It’s easy to make him look bad because we know how this story ends, but give Peter his due. He really meant what he said.
He was boasting . . .
He was overly-optimistic about himself . . .
He was too dismissive of the other disciples . . .
He had no sense of the danger he was in . . .
That’s all very true.
But that’s not where we start. Say what you want about Peter (and there’s a lot to be said), but he was no coward. When trouble came, Peter’s first instinct was to run toward the battle and not away from it. Yes, his big mouth got him in trouble, but he’s also the only guy with the courage to get out of the boat. That’s why we don’t talk about “Bartholomew walking on water.” Only Peter was willing to risk it all.
How, then, should we understand his boastful words?
If you had asked Peter six hours earlier to name his strong points, no doubt he would have listed boldness and courage right at the top. He would have said, “Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth, but at least I’m not afraid to speak up. Jesus knows I’ll always be there when he needs me.”
But when Satan attacked, it came so suddenly, so swiftly, so unexpectedly that the “bold apostle turned to butter.” By himself Peter is helpless. In the moment of crisis, Peter failed at the very point where he pledged to be eternally faithful.
Should this surprise us? After all, why should Satan attack only at the point of your self-perceived weakness? If you know you have a weakness, that’s the very area you will guard most carefully. If you know you have a problem with anger or with laziness or with lust or with gluttony, will you not be on your guard lest you fall?
But it is not so with your strengths. You tend to take those areas for granted. You say, “That’s not a problem for me. I have other problems, but that area is not really a temptation at all.”
Watch out! Put up the red flag! There is danger ahead. When a person takes any area of life for granted, that’s the one area Satan is most likely to attack.
It happened to Peter. It will happen to you and to me sooner or later.
Never again would Peter brag on himself like he did that night. Never again would he presume to be better than his brothers. Never again would he be so cocky and self-confident. All that was gone forever, part of the price Peter paid for his failure in the moment of crisis.
It is a good thing the Lord allows this to happen to us. By falling flat on our faces we are forced to admit that without the Lord we can do nothing but fail. The quicker we learn that (and we never learn it completely), the better off we will be. Failure never seems to be a good thing when it happens, but if failure strips away our cocky self-confidence, then failure is ultimately a gift from God.
For Peter, the worst and the best is yet to come. For today, let’s remind ourselves not to boast. You’re not as strong as you think you are, and neither am I. Peter was a good man who thought too highly of himself, and under pressure he denied the Lord.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Lord Jesus, when I tempted to boast, remind me again of how weak I am. Without you I can do nothing. Amen.
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