Was I the only kid who acted impulsively?
Psychology tells me I’m not, but still, I wonder. There were many times I would do some stunt on my bike or climb way too high in a tree and jump down without consideration of what might happen.
Of course, this impulsivity got me into trouble. Even in adulthood, my default is to take a leap. It’s my experience (a nice way of saying “age”) that makes me slow down and think it through.
Because of this instinct to act first and ask questions later, I’ve often admired the Apostle Peter. He was impulsive too.
The setting of John 13-16 (perhaps 17) is the last meal Jesus will have with his closest followers before His death on the cross. Jesus washed their feet and then told them to serve the way He did. He predicted His betrayal and Judas has gone out to fulfill this prophecy. Jesus told the remaining disciples He was soon to fulfill His mission on this Earth. Need a reminder of what we know of where they were seated?
Jesus told them the world will know them by their self-sacrificing love for each other. Jesus continues His teaching to the Disciples in John 13:36-38:
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!John 13:36-38
New International Version
This must have been shattering to Peter. Never one to be without words, Peter was trying to make sense of this “place” Jesus is going they couldn’t go. Peter responds to Jesus’ prophecy that he can’t follow Jesus now but will later with his usual foot-in-mouth: “Lord…I’ll die for you!”
In a sense, Peter was speaking more truth than he realized because in time Peter would die rather than deny the Lord. But on this night—this strange night when they should have been celebrating—they were all saddened and troubled. Peter was no exception.
But did you notice: none of the twelve—Peter included—even asked about the “new command” Jesus gave. They were just concerned about being left alone and being apart from their Master and Friend.
Just like when he was walking on the water to Jesus, Peter took his eyes off the prize of Jesus and focused on the circumstances. And in the circumstances of this Passover, Jesus was telling them He is going away. They will be alone. The ache of their hearts must have been unbearable.
The Lord tells Peter in front of all of them, “Very truly I tell you before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38). Basically, Peter’s good intentions in the security of this room would melt in just a few hours. And before the sun rises on the next day, Peter would disown Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.
But I’m inclined to give Peter some credit. Although he often would “leap before looking,” Peter was also the leader of the Apostles. He spoke for them. He was a natural leader and he was cultivated by Jesus to be the leader. And in his desire to demonstrate love to Jesus, Peter declares his allegiance even to death.
Now, let’s get this straight: Peter disowned Jesus three times. Peter failed; he sinned. But Peter set us a great example nevertheless.
“What can we learn from Peter,” you ask?
This was the same Peter that got out of the boat and walked to Jesus.
This was the same Peter who was the FIRST to declare Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
This was the same Peter who preached with power on the Day of Pentecost—just a few weeks after this night.
This was the same Peter who evangelized perhaps thousands of people throughout his life up until his death in AD 64 at the hands of Emperor Nero.
Did Peter sin? Yes.
But Peter attempted to demonstrate his love for the Lord. And to look at the totality of his life…wouldn’t you say he did? He took the leap. He stepped out. He ran. He finished well.
Would you agree: we would do well to live up to old impetuous, impulsive Peter?