Mark 8:27-29 (NET) Then Jesus and his disciples went to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said, “John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
Mark 14:27-31 (NET) Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even if they all fall away, I will not!” Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today – this very night – before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.” And all of them said the same thing.
Mark 14:32-42 (NET) Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and distressed. He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.” … Then he came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again and prayed the same thing. When he came again he found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open. And they did not know what to tell him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!”
Mark 14:66-72 (NET) Now while Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s slave girls came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked directly at him and said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it: “I don’t even understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went out to the gateway, and a rooster crowed. When the slave girl saw him, she began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But he denied it again. A short time later the bystanders again said to Peter, “You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.” Then he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him: “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
As I read these passages in Mark, I was reminded of why the Lord’s Supper and this season of Easter are so important.
Here we see Peter correctly identify Jesus as the Christ. Then we see Peter tell Jesus that he will never deny him, even if it costs Peter his life!
Right after that Jesus, obviously troubled, asks Peter (along with James and John) to “remain here and stay alert” as he goes off to pray. But when he comes back, Peter and the others are all asleep. Two more times he leaves and comes back and every time they are unable to stay awake and “stay alert” as Jesus had asked.
A short time later that night, we see Peter’s denial of Jesus as he faces his accusers.
Peter knew exactly who Jesus was and he vowed to stand by him. But in the middle of the night, the demands of his flesh overcame the command of his Lord and he fell asleep. And when standing by Jesus meant possibly facing pain and death, Peter’s fear overcame his faith and his vow never to deny Jesus was found to be an empty promise.
Peter, the disciple who first identified Jesus for who he really was, forgot who he was dealing with.
I’m prone to forget who I’m dealing with in Jesus as well. Like Peter in Gethsemane, I give in to the demands of my flesh and forget the commands of my Lord. Like Peter’s denials of Jesus, I’m prone to put myself first when the going gets tough or I am “put on the spot”.
Peter was about to witness Jesus’ death and his resurrection, the most spectacular “reminders” of exactly who Jesus is. We have the privilege of looking back on those events and being continually reminded ourselves of what Jesus means to each of us.
As we partake of the Lord’s Supper to remember his death, and as we celebrate Easter to remember his new life, let’s remember exactly who Jesus is for us today, right now, and pray that this will be enough to overcome the weakness of our flesh and of our fear.