In Matt 26:31-35, when Jesus told his disciples that they would be offended because of him, Jesus knew by the scripture and by his understanding what they would do. The Scripture he quoted is Zech 13:7. Wee see his understanding of men in Jn 2:24-25 “…he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man”. Peter’s denial was no surprise to Jesus.
Peter said “yet will I never be offended”. He meant what he said. He just never realized that there could be a circumstance in which he would be offended.
Perhaps, he had forgotten the lesson they had learned from John the Baptist in Matt 11:2-6. Here was a man who:
- knew his calling, Is 40:3, Mal 3:1
- knew for certain that Jesus was the Messiah, by the dove,
- was not a reed shaken with the wind,
- was not clothed in soft raiment,
- and was greater than all before him, there had not risen a greater than John the Baptist.
And yet, he was offended, because he thought Jesus would begin to rule, and because he was suffering in prison, instead. He didn’t realize that in the spirit of Elijah, Herod would behead him just like Elijah will be in the Tribulation. He just didn’t see this coming.
The disciples had seen this lesson with John, but had not learned the lesson. The Lord always gives you fair warning that you should heed. But most of the time, if not always, we ignore his warning or lesson.
The Lord said to Adam “…thou shalt surely die”. Adam had no idea that he would have to make a choice between loving Eve or obeying God. He could have never imagined any circumstance in which he would have eaten the fruit. But the Lord knew.
Peter had no idea that he would be offended for the same reason as John. When Peter rebuked Jesus in Matt 16, Jesus had to rebuke Peter. He said, “Get thee behind me Satan”.
Likewise, when the soldiers arrested Jesus in the garden, Peter attempted to defend him with the sword. When Jesus rebuked him for this, Peter ended up denying him. Never did Peter see his denial coming. But the Lord did.
Do you understand? Peter and the disciples needed to go through fleeing for safety to accomplish two things in their lives.
First, they needed to see that they weren’t as great as they thought they were. Peter, James, and John needed to particularly learn this lesson. The Lord told Peter in Matt 16 that he would have the keys to the kingdom of heaven. That’s big stuff. James and John were asking for the seats on either side of Jesus in his kingdom, Matt 20:20-23. They thought they were great. Jesus said if you want to be great you need to serve, and become the least to be chief.
Jesus had taught them this lesson in Matt 11:11. After saying there was none greater than John the Baptist, he said, “Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”. He was speaking of himself when he referred to the least. He taught them this same lesson when he washed their feet. But he told Peter that he wouldn’t understand the lesson until hereafter, Jn 13:3-17.
Second, they needed to learn for certain that they were going to suffer before they were going to enter into his glory. Peter understood this lesson perfectly through the experience of denying Christ. He wrote about suffering in both of his epistles.
Peter had the choice after his denial to quit or to humble himself and go on. He chose to learn from his mistake and go on. But he never sought greatness for himself again. And he never sought to go contrary to the Lord or the scriptures again. In Acts 10, he obeyed the Lord and took the gospel to the Gentiles.
When Jesus confronted Peter after his resurrection, he asked Peter, Do you love me. When Peter replied affirmatively, the Lord told him to feed my sheep. That’s all. Just feed my sheep. David fed sheep in the Old Testament and his brothers mocked him, when he came to see the battle, for doing such a menial task, 1 Sam 17:28. The Lord made no mention of the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Just feed sheep. And Peter reported that feeding sheep, according to the will of God, will yield the elder the crown of glory when Jesus returns, 1 Pet 5:1-4.
Also in Jn 21, when Peter asked what Jesus was going to do with John, Jesus basically told him to mind his own business and “Follow thou me”. Peter did. And because Peter followed the Lord, he was then ready for all that God had for him to do in Acts 1-5, Acts 10-11, Acts 15, and so forth. And he could write his two epistles.
But Peter had to go through the terrible experience of the denial before he could do anything more for the Lord. Right there, Peter could have remained offended and never returned to the ministry. Or he could learn from this terrible experience and be ready for what God wanted him to do next. He learned from his denial.
If God is going to use you, you will suffer. You are going to go through a crisis of your own. He will show you your insignificance and insufficiency. You are going to hit a wall that you never imagined you would hit. And when you do, after God shows you what he has always known was in your heart, you will then have to decide whether you are going to believe the scripture, trust the Lord, follow him, and go on.
Most likely, you’re not going to get the lesson any other way. And when you do, I hope you decide to follow Jesus. This is the right thing to do.
For more information on this see Matt 26:69-75 Peter’s Denial.