Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly I say to you, the rooster will not crow three times till you have denied me three times.”–John 13:37-38
When I read Peter’s words here, I wonder what was stirring in his soul. The first thing I imagine was fear. Peter was afraid of losing his best friend. He was confused because he did not know exactly what was happening, so he asked Jesus if he could come along. They’d been through a lot together. Peter gave three years of his life to following this man, his closest ally. He offered a courageous response to suggest that he would never leave Jesus’s side.
“I will lay down my life for you.” Was this irony? Divine foreshadowing? Peter was saying that he was willing to die for Jesus, which was the only thing he could not do. He needed Jesus to lay down his life for him. It was only Jesus—perfect in life and perfect in death—who was able to truly lay down his life for another. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “He became sin, who knew no sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.”
But Jesus did not simply tell Peter, “No, you cannot come.” He told him that by morning, Peter would deny him three times. Peter was his most loyal disciple and one of his dearest friends, yet he was still a human who was susceptible to human frailties and inconsistencies.
Like Peter despite our greatest intentions, we lack the capacity to love perfectly. We are fickle, fragile, frail creatures, yet thanks be to God, we are loved by the one who has no shadow of inconsistency.
Jesus, I am like Peter. I confidently promise to give my life wholly to your cause, and yet I can barely make it past breakfast before I have denied you three times. Forgive my frailty and let me lean once again upon your Spirit, who dwells in me. Amen.