Christ is getting closer to the cross. This chapter will highlight a woman’s sacrifice, Peter’s failure and Christ’s obedience.
Dear Father in heaven,
What can we ever say or do to thank you for your great love for us? In truth, we can never repay you, and can never match Christ’s sacrifice, which was offered for our sins.
The best we can do is give you our lives, our abilities and our possessions and ask you to use us to accomplish your will.
Help us to express complete obedience to you without relying on ourselves.
Like the woman in the story of the fragrant ointment, help us to offer you all that we have.
Like Jesus in the garden, help us to see that your will for us is better than our own will, whatever that may be.
Help us to live our the words, “Thy will be done.”
In Christ our Lord,
The battle Christ won on the cross was, in a way, first won in the garden. It was there Christ obediently determined to follow through with his plan in complete submission to his Father’s will. After Gethsemane there would be no turning back.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Christ knew exactly what was coming. Going to the cross would be horrible, but many had done this before. Two others, in fact, were crucified the same day with Jesus. What made Christ’s death any different?
The difference was in his carrying the weight of our sin.
It is impossible to know what that is like, but we can imagine at least a little. It might feel a lot like guilt. For example, sometimes we get into trouble and, while our circumstances annoy us, the thing that truly tortures us is knowing that it is our own fault. How much better would everything be if this had all been avoided? Sometimes we do something wrong and have no one to blame but ourselves. Knowing that the consequences are of our own making makes them worse.
Now let’s think further. It is bad enough dealing with the consequences of our own sin. That much guilt is usually enough for any of us. What if we had to bear the sins of the world on our shoulders while dying that slow, painful death?
By all available accounts, Christ’s time on the cross was less than many who died in that same manner. Sometimes it took a few days for the crucified victim to expire. Christ died in a matter of hours. But no one before or since has had to bear more than their own sin. The physical torture was bad enough, but the psychological and spiritual anguish was much, much worse. Yet Christ was determined to walk it through to the end. And he did that out of love for us.
It was there in Gethsemane that the prayer, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” was answered. It was answered when the Father simply said no. Jesus was okay with that. He understood what was necessary for us to be saved. He knew the cross was only the first step toward resurrection. He knew that if he shared in our death, and shared in our sin, we would share in his life forever more.
Peter sure had a lot of faith in himself in this chapter, all of it unwarranted. For example, what’s this?
33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
It’s probably always a bad idea to contradict Jesus. He knows Peter better than Peter knows himself.
Peter is then among those who fall asleep in Gethsemane, after Jesus asked him to watch. Jesus gets it right again. He understands what is really going on.
41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Then we have the infamous cutting off the ear of the High priest’s servant. John is the one who names names in John 18:10. The servant was Malchus, the ear-cutter was Peter. Maybe he was trying to make up for falling asleep earlier by showing he was really going to take care of things now. “I got this Lord. Your back is safe with me.”
Then comes the actual denial at the end of the chapter. Matthew explains that Peter denied Christ to not one but two (2) servant girls and then to some bystanders who pointed out that his accent gave him away. He sounded like he was from Galilee, not Jerusalem.
Let’s all be glad that our faith is in Jesus and not in Peter and not in ourselves. Left to ourselves, we and Peter have a lot in common. Our behavior is erratic. Our self-confidence is normally misplaced.
When nobody is looking, we can deliver a pretty good boast. “I’ll never fall away. I’m ready to die at your side.” When push comes to shove, servant girls and random bystanders are more than enough to intimidate us into denial. “Who me? You think I know that guy? Sorry. Never met him.”
Wait, do I hear a rooster?