By Jason Scherzer
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
In this section of John, we see some of the disciples on a course that intersects with Jesus’ mission and purpose: Thomas (John 14:3), Philip (John 14:8), Judas (not Iscariot, John 14:22), and Peter (John 13:36). The results for the first three are positive, though not because of any perfection or merit in the disciples themselves.
The interaction between Jesus and Peter is of course the focus in these verses. Peter is quite sure that he will do what is necessary on behalf of Jesus, and that he will perform an essential service for Him. Peter is determined that he will go wherever Jesus goes, defend Him at all costs, and even lay down his life for Jesus. The perspective of Peter assumes that Jesus is in need of being defended.
Prior to the Cross and the Resurrection, Jesus’ words were mysteriously opaque to the disciples, including Peter. The plain meaning eluded Peter and he could not wrap his mind around the idea that the Christ must suffer, let alone that He must bear the sins of the world on that Cross.
Peter did not know what he was asking, when he said, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” While Scripture further reveals that the believer in Christ will share in His sufferings in order to also share in His glory; yet it is critical that we recognize only the sinless Son of God, the one and only Son of God, could go to the Cross and bear the sins of many. Peter could never follow Jesus where He was about to go, but he would follow Jesus later (John 21:18-19).
Jesus knew precisely all of the details in which Peter would deny him – the time, the setting, the Roman soldiers, the servant girl, the fire – all of it. Jesus also knew that Peter would have a great inner struggle, a torment of fear that drove him to run away and deny. Jesus also knew the plan He had to restore Peter after He was raised from the dead.
We often think that we know what we will do on behalf of God, as if it might be something that He will need. Or perhaps we think that our view of God is more honoring – we know that He is not in need of anything. Yet, we still have the tendency to carry out our own plan, without hearing what His plan is. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. If Peter walked closely with Jesus for three years but still missed understanding Jesus, we shouldn’t think that we understand all of His ways.
LORD, strengthen us today to listen to your voice and to leave behind our own ideas, agendas, and plans. May Your will be done in our hearts and in Your Church. Amen.