One of the most heart wrenching sections of scripture is here. Our Lord, being omniscient, knows exactly how bad what is going to happen will be, both by man and by His Father. Man's wrath would be motivated by sinful hatred, His Father's wrath would be righteous judgment of sin - no mercy, full payment would be extracted. This was what Jesus had willingly volunteered to do in eternity past; now the time had come. The temptations in the wilderness did not measure up to what the Lord must have been dealing with here. Why should He go through this? He never sinned! Even when it is all over most humans will not receive the forgiveness purchased, so He will pay the debt of sins that go uncollected! Surely there must be another way? Maybe there is a loophole. Jesus does not have to do this, He owes no one, they all owe Him, He is God! Maybe He can at least only pay the debt of the sins of those that will receive the forgiveness, the Father knows who they are, so why the sins of the whole world? But that was not the deal…Father, Son and Holy Spirit agreed before the foundation of the world – all sin will be paid for. Everyone will have the opportunity to receive forgiveness and salvation. Everyone will be accountable for that choice.
Our Lord was a real man, an honest man. Here He wrestles with His commitment to follow through. How did he do it? Why couldn’t Peter stick to his decision?
Matthew 26:33-46, 74-75 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!…Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Peter had made a very strong commitment to follow Christ will matter the cost. Jesus had made a commitment to drink the cup his father would serve him. Peter, failed to follow through on his commitment, Jesus, praise be to God, did follow through. Interestingly, a statement made about Christ immediately after He had informed His men “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” Lk 9:44 gives us insight to the Lord’s follow through, here we see the seeds that are planted in our Lord for follow-through of His commitment. Notice the words that are used to describe His frame of mind; I share from several translations:
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem (NASB)
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem (ESV)
Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem (NET)
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (KJV)
In each version the intensity of purpose is clear. Perhaps this is the difference between Peter and our Lord. We cannot be too critical on Peter, remember it was he that pulled a sword out and tried to protect the Lord. Peter clearly was willing to die in the heat of an emotional moment. After emotion subsided though, when Peter would be forced to count the cost of his commitment – his will failed. Jesus on the other hand had made a commitment not based on emotion, but upon a willful and purposed decision. This is the secret we all need to embrace if we are to follow through on our commitments. In marriage, a couple that tries to stay together based on emotion will find themselves separated. When their bond is based on a committed covenant that they made willfully, they will remain together no matter the emotional terrain at the moment. In the book of Acts this is clearly what happened to Peter after his failure. On the beach in John 21, in a discussion with his Lord about love Peter arrived at a willful commitment to follow Christ, not based on emotion, and this is what makes Peter so bold to those that are threatening to kill him in Acts chapters 4 and 5.
Issues to ponder:
* When I am emotionally high is that when I follow the Lord easily?
* When I am emotionally low do I find it easier to disobey?
* Do I make commitments based on how I feel only to regret them later?
* How much time do I give in counting the cost of the commitments I make?
* When my commitment is put to the test, do I find myself trying to push my way through, or do I go to the Lord and remind myself of the commitment I made to Him and seek Him for the strength to follow through will?