Hours before He was to be betrayed by Judas, Jesus warned Peter of his impending trial. Satan had demanded permission to sift or in the Greek, siniazo (to try one’s faith to the point of overthrow) Peter. Peter was to be utterly shaken; shaken to the point of breaking.
Lost in his self-reliance, Peter assured the Lord that he would, “go both to prison and to death” before he abandoned his master (Lk. 22:33.) Jesus, knowing what was to come, spoke these words to the apostle:
I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.
Interestingly, Luke does not record a response from Peter. No plea for help, no request for divine intervention…nothing. We are left to assume one thing: Peter decided to handle the situation himself. And so the story unfolds…
After following Jesus and His captors to the house of the high priest, Peter is cornered and accused of being with Jesus. Fearing for his own life, Peter vehemently denies that he knows Jesus…three times (Lk. 22:54-60.)
Let’s pause here for a second and look at the word “deny.” In the greek, this word aparneomai, does not mean to simply deny something. This is the strongest word someone could use when they are disowning, violently shoving away from, or rejecting someone they have previously known. In short, when Peter denies Jesus, he is violently rejecting and disowning Jesus. To make matters worse, he does this three times… a biblical symbol for perfection and finality.
In the span of an hour, Peter had become a man he never knew he could be. His life, his identity as a follower of Jesus, and his influence as an apostle came shattering to the ground. Peter was utterly shaken.
As I have studied this passage, I can’t help but weep for Peter. His fall was great and his shaking was severe. I feel intimately connected to him as I remember the dire moments I have experienced in my relationship with Jesus. In my wrestling with this passage, I can’t help but ask, “what happened?”
I believe the answer is very simple; Peter trusted in himself. In his moment of need, he turned inward and relied upon his own ability, wisdom, and goodness to save him from the enemy of his soul. Peter’s self-reliance became the very weapon Satan used to crush him.
Isn’t this true? Think on this: by turning inward, Peter denied Jesus. Before he said a word, the apostle took his eyes off Jesus and opened himself to the scheme and attack of Satan. Make no mistake, Peter gave Satan the opportunity: the enemy simply capitalized upon Peter’s folly.
Isn’t this my issue, too? When I examine my life and see the moments where the enemy has prevailed, one common characteristic is present; self-reliance. Rather than run to Jesus and enjoy the safety of His grace, I foolishly try to “handle the situation.” Failure and sorrow are quick to follow.
Examine yourself. Has the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12) found a breeding ground in your self-reliance? Let us learn from Peter and look to Jesus in our sifting, He will never fail us.