For the longest time I’ve been interested in Greek mythology. Have you ever heard of Cassandra? The god Apollo saw her and was attracted to her beauty, and was moved to give her the ability to see the future. But she didn’t return his love, so he turned her gift into a curse: She could still know the future, but no one would believe her predictions.
The point here is obvious: When you know something bad is about to happen and your intended recipients of said warning don’t pay any attention, it’s pretty frustrating. I think of that story every time I read about how the Lord warned someone and they wouldn’t listen. You’ll find this frustration on God’s part recorded multiple times in the prophets, and this is another example.
My friend, of all the people who ever walked this planet, no one understood the human heart as well as our Lord. He knew each soul down to its lowest and deepest level. Freud might've had trouble understanding the hidden motives and dark corners of the psyche, but not the Master. His followers might display some appalling naiveté concerning human nature, but not him.
The setting was the Last Supper he was going to have with his disciples before his Passion. He knows what’s coming: The arrest, the show-trials, the beatings and torture, and the experience on Calvary. He also knows that each of his disciples will run away like frightened deer as soon as trouble arrives. He predicts their abandonment of him, citing a prophecy from Zechariah.
Peter always has been the spokesman for the group, usually saying what’s on everyone else’s mind. And of course Mr. Confidence says “Maybe everybody else will run, but I won’t. I’ll die with you first.”
I believe that every word of Scripture is God-breathed, and nothing is missing that we really need. But sometimes I truly wish that it would give us more descriptions of facial expressions. I think that our Savior had an especially sad look on his face when he made a specific prediction concerning Peter. This was the closest thing he had to a “right hand man.” This was the one into whom he'd invested the lion’s portion of his teaching. This was one of the “chosen three” who'd seen things no other human had ever seen (like the Transfiguration). He was going to be, for a time, the main spokesman for the church after the Master had gone. And not only would this man run away when the squeeze came, he would do something especially horrible. He was going to deny that he'd ever heard the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
What should Peter have done? Was there any way to make that not happen? I do know that there are times in the Prophets in which God predicts something and it doesn’t happen because the people, thus warned, turn from the path they’re on. Nineveh is one prominent example. The prophet Jonah’s message (as recorded) gave no ray of hope, just a sure prediction of doom: “Forty days and Nineveh will fall.” The people heard, listened, and repented. And the prophet’s prediction never came to pass.
So if Peter had said to Jesus “Wow Lord, if you said it, then that means it’s going to come true. What do I need to do to make sure it doesn’t?” what would have been Christ’s response? We’ll never know, because that’s not what Peter said and we can’t rewind time. What he said was “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” How utterly stupid. Again, did he think that his Master was mistaken concerning human nature? Did he think that his Savior had a lower estimate of Peter’s faithfulness than was warranted?
Wait a minute, what are those fingers doing pointing back at me?! When I make bold claims about my faithfulness, I’m just being realistic! It’s not like I need to pray for God to not lead me into temptation or anything. When he says to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” he must be talking to someone else. Oh nuts. You’ll have to excuse me. I need to go fix my sarcasm meter, it just pegged out.
Lord Jesus, I desperately need listening ears and a soft heart. Your voice is so soft sometimes, I have some trouble sometimes hearing it above all the noise. And I really need to listen, especially when you’re warning me about something.
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