Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. Mark 14, verses 28-31.
Why did Jesus say this?
Last week, I attended a men’s Bible study out here in Paris, Texas. It was the first one of this year, and the pastor was recanting some of his personal history in the context of five “R’s” that he wanted the men of the church to remember throughout the year (revelation, realization, reliance, repetition, relationship). During his talk, he mentioned how, as a young Marine, he woke up on a beach one time, hungover with a strange naked woman beside him. His conscience bothered him because he thought of himself as a Christian yet was spending so much of his personal time living in markedly un-Christian ways. He said that God’s Spirit convicted him, prodding him to the realization that he could turn and follow Jesus unconditionally, or he could live unconditionally as a worldly man but couldn’t, in good conscience, still call himself a Christian.
Why did Jesus say this to this man?
Let’s be fair: the Disciples probably thought they meant well. Jesus was plainly telling them that He was about to be arrested, tortured, and murdered and that none of them would lift a finger to stop it. If your best friend said something like that to you, wouldn’t you immediately become indignant? You’d jump to defend yourself; “now wait just a minute!” In part, you’d do this out of love for your friend. But in being fair, we also need to be honest: you’d also do it for yourself, to ward off a perceived attack on your dignity. Yes, we really do usually think (and act) as if ‘it’s all about me.’ Peter, John and the rest were no different.
In true friend-form, Jesus then responded with the truth. “This is what’s going to happen. When I’m at my neediest moment, you’re going to deny me. You’re going to run away from me and lie about Me to save your own skin.” He wasn’t doing it out of anger or spite: it was a matter of fact. Yet I’ll give you another motivation that may not seem too apparent.
It was out of love.
Why would Jesus say this to His friends? To convict them, of course. He said what He said so that they would feel it, internalize it, contemplate it, and know all the more the power of His Word on that Easter Sunday just a few eternally long days later. Jesus had yanked them into this supernatural event and used supernatural fore-knowledge that He shared with Peter. “Before the rooster even crows, you’ll deny me not just once but three times.” Perhaps that number three has meaning as well. After all, three is a significant number in Scripture…think Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Think “on the third day.” In convicting them through their consciences, Jesus was also using a Scriptural reference to turn a painful event of recollection into a Gospel-proclaiming lesson of powerful truth.
Next time you do something outrageous and you feel the sting of your conscience, think “three” and that maybe God is trying to tell you something.
Lord, I pray You convict me daily of my sins, turning the pain of my remembering them into Your glory here and now.
Read Mark 14, verses 32-41.