Posted on December 3, 2014
82: Falling On My Face
Last Sunday morning, I got an important reminder. Before communion, a man gave a short but powerful devotion. He told about his life before becoming a Christian, how dirty and sin-burdened he’d constantly felt. His face showed the pain of the memory. Then He began to celebrate, testifying to the change that had come over him when Jesus saved him. His face was animated, transformed from grief to joy as he told how it felt to live free from the weight of sin! His delight was plain to see as he gave all glory and praise to Christ.
I sat wondering how long it’d been since I’d really celebrated the change Jesus made in my life. Was I becoming so used to being clothed in His righteousness that I’d begun to think of it as my own?
I believe one of the greatest hazards for us Christians (especially long-time Christians) is self-sufficiency—letting our wonder at Christ’s grace and mercy fade, getting cocky about our ability to resist satan and temptation, forgetting the real source of our salvation and strength. Just at the moment we feel most able to stand, we’re sure to fall.
Thanks for joining me for today’s post in Knowing Jesus, our study of Christ’s life through the inspired pen of Mark. Get your Bible and let’s take a look at a brash moment in the life of Peter.
Read Mark 14:27-31. You’ll find parallels in Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:24-38; and John 13:31-38. (Notice that all four gospels include this account in one form or another.)
The Passover meal was finished. It had been an evening full of remembrance, not rushed. Judas had left partway through the meal (see John 13:21-30) before Jesus introduced the ceremony we know as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Jesus and the remaining Eleven completed the meal by singing the final Hallel. (The Hallel or “praise” psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal; psalms 115-118 were sung after.) It was late—possibly as late as midnight—when they left the upper room and made the fifteen-minute walk to the Mount of Olives where Gethsemane was located.
Either on the way to Gethsemane or shortly before leaving the upper room, Jesus made a statement that startled the disciples. “This very night you will all be snared, caused to stumble in your faith, because of Me.”
As usual Peter was the first to respond. “Not me. I’ll never desert you. Even if all the others stumble, I won’t.”
Jesus answered, “I speak truth to you: Today—this very night—before the rooster crows at the rising sun, you’ll deny Me three times.”
Peter was emphatic. “No, Lord! I am ready to die with You. Never will I deny you.” The remaining ten disciples agreed.
In a week or two we’ll come to the rest of this story, but you probably already know it. Peter would deny knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times—just as emphatically as he’d declared his loyalty. And all the other disciples would flee, leaving Jesus alone when He most needed them (Mark 14:50).
So what went wrong? How could Peter go from bold devotion to panicked denial in a matter of hours? He forgot where his power came from. He thought he could stand, but his self-sufficiency and pride came before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). It was a lesson well learned; later he would write about the grace God gives to the humble (1 Peter 5:5b). And he would urge the believers, “In your hearts acknowledge Christ as the holy Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer. . .” (1 Peter 3:15) so they would never fail as he had.
Why do all four gospels record Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s denial? Maybe because there’s such a valuable lesson in it for all of us. There is no such thing as self-sufficiency. The only sufficiency is in Jesus. We need Him—every day, every hour, every moment. The instant we forget that, we’ll fall.
I don’t want to land on my face in front of the Lord because my pride dropped me there; I want to fall on my face before Him in wonder-filled celebration of His gracious mercy that saved such a one as me.
© Diane McLoud 2014