36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Jesus has just called the disciples to love one another, but Peter can’t focus on the call to love just yet. Instead, he is taken by Jesus’ words in verse 33 that he was leaving. He asks Jesus where he is going.
Jesus, for his part, tells Peter that Jesus is headed to a place Peter cannot follow. Jesus is going to the cross. HE is going to lay down his life to atone for the sins of others. This is something that Peter simply lacks the ability to do. And so Jesus lets Peter know that, at this time, Peter cannot follow him.
Peter, wanting to show his love and commitment to Jesus and sounding like a child who wants to leave with mom and dad, asks why he can’t come now. He then declares his willingness to lay down his life for Jesus.
Jesus appears to have caught the irony of the moment. Peter would lay down his life for Jesus? Peter does not understand that Jesus is on his way to lay down his life for Peter, and for all those who will be forgiven by God. No, Peter can’t come.
Then, in a very gracious display, Jesus tells Peter that no, Peter will not follow Jesus now. In fact, in a few hours, before daybreak, Peter will deny Jesus three times. The man who is brash and confident at the dinner table will run away and disown Jesus when faced with danger.
Why do I call this a gracious display? Think with me for a minute. Jesus tells Peter what Peter will do before it happens. Thus, Jesus makes it clear that he is not surprised by Peter’s actions. He knows that Peter will deny him, sinning greatly in the process. But, as he says it, it is not as though Jesus is sending Peter away, cutting him off, or telling Peter that Peter would be damned for his unbelief. No. Jesus shows Peter that he knows what will happen, but Jesus still treats Peter with grace. And, at the end of this gospel, we will watch as Jesus helps Peter to understand that he is forgiven, restored to his place as one of the followers of Jesus.
In Peter, I’m guessing that we all can see ourselves. How many times and in how many ways have you denied the Savior? How many times have you chosen to do things your way instead of God’s way? How many times have you chosen to remain in the background instead of proclaiming the gospel? How many times have you indulged your desires instead of honoring God? How many times have you hidden from conflict instead of declaring God’s truth? How many times have you chosen evil instead of good? Yes, we all have denied Jesus in one form or another.
And here is the good news. Jesus knew Peter’s sin, but he still chose to go to the cross and die for Peter’s sin. And, I’ll let you in on something wonderful; Jesus knows your sin, and he still chose to go to the cross. He still offers us all forgiveness, even though he knows that we all will deny and dishonor him.
Today, remember. Remember the great Savior who knew how wicked would be your heart, but chose to die for your sin anyway. Remember the Lord who gave his life in your place, knowing full well how you would fail. Let your heart be filled with that love. Let your mind just try to comprehend that glory. Savor the love of God as you remember his grace to you.