“Peter sat down among them” (Luke 22). At first he had “followed from afar,” yet now he moves closer, much closer. In fact, he’s taken a seat with the enemies of Jesus.
In the large upper room where the Passover supper had been prepared, Jesus had just spoken the unthinkable: “the things concerning me have an end.” Peter no doubt was shocked — confused. The words Jesus spoke that night were life-altering, revolutionary. “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Temptation? The disciples must have asked themselves, “In what way will we be tempted?” Then came the punch to the core of their relationship: the time of no purse, no scrip, no shoes – was over. He spoke, “he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” What did all this mean? Was His supernatural provision coming to an end? Further, that night each element was given new and eternal meaning. Then Jesus spoke of an unthinkable betrayal, and pronounced woe to the offender. These words ignited surmising about who it could possibly be. This while Judas was already at work.
But what really darkened the meeting was the shocking strife among them about who would be the greatest. A conversation that Jesus interrupted in order to lay down the most powerful revelation of leadership ever delivered to the human race. Jesus explained that the kings of the Gentiles (the world) rule and exercise authority while calling themselves benefactors. In other words, “our gift to you is that we rule you.” But Jesus explains His divine foundation of leadership: “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth (Luke 22:26-27).
At that same moment, Jesus also warned Peter of Satan’s desire to “have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Peter responded with his famous pledge, “I am ready to go with thee, both to prison and to death.” To which Jesus astonishingly responds by revealing that Peter will deny him three times in the next few hours.
From that poignant moment they move to the Mount of Olives and the drama continues; the Lord’s agonizing prayer, the visit of the strengthening Angel, the sleeping disciples awakened in time to greet a vicious multitude lead by Judas. Judas had no doubt counted the cost and had chosen the money. He drew near to kiss Jesus, only to hear the painful question, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” Then someone interrupts the dialogue, foolishly wielding a sword to cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus touches him and heals the ear. In a moment, it is over; they have captured Jesus and have taken him to the high Priest’s house. All appears to be lost.
Peter now takes his lonely, bewildered journey into the shadows. He is unsure. He ends up at the wrong fire. He makes his tragic denials, just as Christ had warned him. He is face to face with his fear, weakness, and uncertainty. Who is he now? This is more than a bad day; it is a dark and ominous moment. Can he escape from his situation? Can he overcome his guilt? He is outside of his understanding.
Our intellectual environment is very limited. We respect, of course, the research of those who honestly seek understanding of our world, but just as the universe is vast and appears beyond our comprehension, so is our small journey on this earth. In simple terms, we know little of what will be tomorrow. “There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen” (Job 28:7). Job continues, “Where is the place of understanding? (v. 12).
My point here is that Peter’s true place of understanding was found in his “bitter weeping.” His confession and humility is what brought him out of his hubris and self-reliance. This uncovering of the condition of his soul, as Jesus knew, would lead him into his calling—his mission, into his ministry, into his power, into his anointing, and into his divine historical moment wherein he was called upon to answer the great question “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Jesus’ rebuke was pertinent to the fact that Peter did not know himself. He thought He was invincible. He was completely self-assured and filled with self-confidence. Jesus wanted to reveal his weakness and frailty to him in order to change him, to empower him. Imagine his agony when he heard the rooster crow.
We Pentecostals must humbly see ourselves as completely dependent on the Holy Ghost. We must discard any idea that by might, power, intellect, education, bravery, money, flesh or whatever we can do the needed spiritual work upon this earth. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not an option. It is an imperative. Our mission, our calling, is to defend and earnestly contend for the “faith once delivered.” We cannot be lulled into a state of bravado and arrogance. For YES we CAN make a miscalculation of ourselves. May God forbid we ever warm ourselves at the wrong fire. Let us not set ourselves down among the enemy, looking to blend in, looking to find commonality with those assembled for an execution of the Apostle’s doctrine. We have no time for bitter tears.