John 18:16-18,25-27: Delusions of Grandeur

Read: John 18:16-18,25-27

The denial of Christ by Peter is a very prevalent story in the gospels. All four gospels record Jesus predicting this event (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38) and record the details of the event too (Luke 22:55-65, Mark 14:66-72, Matthew 26:69-75). Peter’s zeal for Jesus was displayed when he declared that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37) and never leave him (Matthew 26:33) and also when Peter brandishes as sword in an attempt to defend Jesus while Jesus was being arrested (John 18:10). It was not too long afterwards though that Peter was standing around a fire trying to get warm because it was cold outside, and people begin to recognize him as one of Jesus’ followers. Three times people recognize him, and after the third time, there was a rooster crow. Peter recalls what Jesus had said the evening before. Matthew records Peter weeping bitterly because he knew exactly what he had done after he swore up and down profusely that he would never do such a thing.

John later in his gospel records what is the apparent undoing of Peter’s denial (John 21:5-7). Here, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Each time, Peter says that he does, and each time Jesus asks Peter to in some way care for his sheep. While Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that Peter would become a source of strength for the disciples in the time following the ascension. Before Jesus predicts Peter’s denial in Luke 22:31, Jesus says that the others will be sifted like wheat, but Peter would be the one to strengthen them.  Peter would be instrumental in the early church in Jerusalem and would preach a sermon at Pentecost that would lead to the salvation of thousands of people.

Grandiose promises have a way of setting one up for failure. Matthew 5:33-37 records Jesus speaking in the matter of making vows. He quotes from Leviticus 19:12, which speaks to the one who makes vows to fulfill them. Apparently there was a problem with people making vows. They would swear on Jerusalem, on the throne of God, or on a number of grandiose things. Rather than make lavish promises, Jesus encourages his listeners here to simply let their yes be yes and their no be no—that is to keep what one says one is going to do simple.

It is easy to point a finger at Peter and see his obvious failing, and claim that one has never denied Christ. But would not be easy to do is claim that one has promised to never do something and ended breaking that promise at one point or another. Peter was zealous for Jesus—there can be no mistake about that, and like Peter, people generally have zeal to keep the promise. While zeal is not inherently bad, it is better to not make lavish promises. And like Peter, Christians will fail.  In all cases though Jesus is there to restore and whoever failed can get back up and when back to serving God. A Christian should simply focus on trying to obey God, rather than get delusions of grandeur about how one is never going to disobey God.

Lord, help my ‘yes’ to be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ to be ‘no’ and nothing more!