When Jesus told the disciples that he was leaving for a place they could not follow, it must have really troubled them. He was their teacher, and they couldn’t imagine life without him.
As usual, it was Peter who spoke out, saying,
Lord, where are you going…why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. (John 13:36-37)
Jesus then stunned Peter and the rest of the disciples by saying,
Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38)
He then said,
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift (all of) you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)
Again, Peter declared,
Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death. (Luke 22:33)
But again Jesus replied,
I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me. (Luke 22:34)
Perhaps, at that point, the other disciples thought that Peter was the betrayer that Jesus had talked about earlier. Perhaps even Peter was wondering.
So Jesus said,
You will all fall away…for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mark 14:27-28)
Still Peter continued to insist,
Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will. (Matthew 26:33)
So Jesus made his declaration even stronger and more specific saying,
I tell you the truth…today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times. (Mark 14:30)
Even then, Peter refused to believe it, and insisted with all the other disciples that he would never do such a thing, even if it meant death. (Mark 14:31)
In the end, of course, they all did as Jesus had predicted. All of them ran away when Jesus was arrested, and Peter ended up denying Jesus three times.
What’s my point? Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our weaknesses, even when we can’t see them ourselves. And yet, he accepts us.
That’s the amazing thing of all of this. He never condemned Peter. Rather, he tried to encourage him saying, “I’ve been praying for you that your faith will not fail. You will fall, but you will get up again. And when you do, encourage the others.”
In the same way, Jesus knows our weakness. Yet he doesn’t condemn us. Rather, he, as our great high priest, prays for us daily. He reaches out to pull us up when we fall down. And when we get up again, he tells us to have mercy on the others we see around us who have fallen as well.
So in our weakness, in our failures, let us always remember,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)