We are now in the last week of Jesus’ life. His entry into Jerusalem, his final instructions to the crowds and to the disciples. In this final week, Jesus predicts his death by crucifixion in two days. This is followed by the details of the sham trial to be conducted by the religious leaders to trap and murder Jesus. Now Jesus makes two shocking predictions – the one who will betray Him, and the one who will deny knowing him! If ever a spiritual movement looked destined for failure, it would be this last week of Jesus – the leader killed, the followings betraying Him or denying him as they scatter. Three shock waves in this final week.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34.
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep. 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” John 21:15-19.
1. How to Handle Inevitable Personal Failure – Making Too Much of It. It is the catastrophic final week of Jesus’ life. Everything seems to be coming apart. A sham trial. A wrongful conviction, and now Peter and ALL the disciples desert Jesus. Never have men been given so much and responded more poorly. First, life after failure. In the midst of the prediction of Peter’s denial, he PREFACES this prediction with the words ‘when you have recovered, go and strengthen your brethren.’ Do you see this! Do you see life after failure? Jesus, while praying for Peter, and knowing of his betrayal, reminds him of two things: (1) First, you will recover! Do you see that? What an amazing promise. And (2) second, there is life after failure. There is ministry, there is service, and there is a life that is pleasing to God. Don’t be harder on yourself than God is! With repentance comes forgiveness.
2. Handling Failure – Making Too Little of It. There are consequences for sin, every time. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15. Jesus, in asking Peter three times if he loved Him, was reminding him of his past failure. Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?" Peter knew it. But that was not the last chapter.
3. Learning Life’s Lessons in the Crucible of Faith. As predicted by Jesus, Peter’s life would end in martyrdom, and we know, historically, that he was crucified in death. But until then, and so it happened, he had a task at hand. Serve others. Feed the sheep. Make the most of the time that he had.
No better lesson can be learned in life. We all have feet of clay. No one is perfect. In life, with our children and families, and with others, in work situations, we fail. Matthew 5 reminds us that, against the standard of the righteousness of God, we are guilty of murder, adultery, theft, greed, and other life consequences. But to the disciples, and to us, the final chapter is this. Strengthen yourself, recover, repent as needed, and reach out to others. The task is still ahead. Do you see it? Your God-ordained design is to do good works.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10.
Next week. The four stages of preparation of Jesus for suffering, death and the cross. Stay well.