2018-03-27 Peter – Coward or Warrior?

Good Morning!

Today, I would like to talk a little bit about Peter. We’ve all heard many interpretations of the personality of Peter, how he is impulsive and often speaks before he thinks. I even heard one preacher speculate that there were actually six loaves and three fish, but that Peter ate one of each before offering the rest up to Jesus. Now, we have no reason to believe this, although it does paint a humorous picture. Even so, I have a great deal of respect for the man.

Let’s take the garden scene, in particular. You tell me what you think of this man. First, we need to set the scene a little. Let’s look at Jesus’ prediction. Notice what Peter said.

Luke 22:31-34 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny me three times that you know me.”

So far, so good? Don’t forget this little piece of information:

v. 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

What in the world was that all about? I haven’t studied this, but it seems to me that at least some of the apostles were armed. It appears that this discussion happened during the Last Supper. Did they bring their arms there or did they find the swords at the room that was provided? One thing is certain, they brought at least one sword with them when they left. Furthermore, Jesus was well aware of it. And, certainly, he knew what it would be used for.

Then, we have the garden. Remember that? All of the disciples fell asleep. Not just three. All of them. Peter was brought closer to where Jesus prayed, along with James and John, but all of the disciples fell asleep despite Jesus’ rebuke.

Now, we’re ready for the arrest scene. Who came? Luke says, “a crowd.” Let’s take a look at John’s record.

John 18:3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lynch mob. Would that have been frightening? I should think so! Even so, Jesus was in control. Let’s take a look at more of this scene:

v. 4-9 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he has spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

So far, so good? Mob scene, yet the mob wasn’t exactly frenzied. But, they weren’t giving up, either. They were a force to be reckoned with. So, let’s see what happens next. All four Gospels have this account, but only John mentions a specific name.

v. 10-11 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Let’s consider something for a moment. How do you cut off someone’s ear – with a sword – and not cut off his head, too, or make a deep gash in his shoulder as well? Think about this. That sword must have been very, very sharp. And, Peter must have been very good with it. It almost seems that the ear was the only intended target. If so, then Peter must have been extremely skilled with a sword. Who knew that he even had one? I’m thinking Jesus had something to do with that blow and limited it to his ear.

Nonetheless, let’s not for one moment think that Peter was anything short of brave. Did he not make the first move against a force that far outnumbered the disciples? Two swords against swords and clubs, as the other three gospels tell. Nope, Peter had grit. Lots of it.

Time will limit this but remember that Peter also followed the arresting party into enemy territory. Don’t forget that. That took courage. Lots of courage. It was there that Peter denied Jesus – just as Jesus predicted. Matthew’s account said this, “Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!'” No, Peter was very brave, and he indeed did risk his life. Peter, however, did something he swore he wouldn’t do – deny Jesus. And that’s exactly what the rest of the disciples promised as well (Matthew 26:35).

So, what’s the takeaway? For today, I would say this. You and I make big promises regarding sin. Have you ever said there is no way I will do this or that? Let’s be honest now. Have you ever boasted that there is no way you will ever do something? There was a man in Paynesville that killed his grandparents last week, likely in a drug-induced frenzy. I’m sure there was a point in his life he would have sworn he would never do something like that. Certainly, his grandparents must have felt that way. Even so, today, they are dead, and he is in jail.

I think all of us are capable of any sin, given the right circumstances. To boast otherwise is foolish, considering that Satan may (and will) demand to sift you like wheat. How well do you think you would stand up to that kind of test? Peter failed. I think hard positions only invite trouble. Far better would it be to admit that my heart is desperately wicked and I am capable of anything. Then, I may seek protection from my Savior. Do you think pride got in Peter’s way? I think so.

Father, lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. Amen.

Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers


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