It’s one of the most haunting verses in the Bible. Sad, because it actually happened. Haunting, because it could also happen to you and me.
Then all the disciples forsook him and fled (Matthew 26:56).
What’s interesting is that a few verses earlier, they all had chimed in with their spokesman, Peter:
“Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you” (Matthew 26:35).
Wow. I think that may still be a record turnaround. So what went wrong? Are there any lessons to be learned? Any warnings to be heeded for our moments of testing? I think so. Put in proverbial terms,
Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
And on any given day, for any reason, you and I are just as capable of setting ourselves up for a blowout as Peter and the gang were.
Looking back on Peter’s attitudes and expressions, it’s easy to do a post-mortem on his ego trip. To be fair, it isn’t quite as easy when we’re the ones doing the strutting. See if you can related to any of these symptoms:
“If they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!” (Matthew 26:33).
Yeah, he really did just call out the other eleven in public. And Peter made it clear that he was special. He was stronger, more committed, something.
In the Christian life, there is only one standard of comparison, and it’s Jesus. The minute you start sizing yourself up next to somebody else, regardless of the results, you’re exhibiting pride. You may come out feeling inferior or superior; doesn’t matter. Pride always seeks to compare to other people.
Jesus was faithfully warning Peter about what he was about to face. He invited him to a place of prayer, alone, and the disciple’s best response was to nod off. He told him that Satan wanted him to “sift him like wheat,” and still Peter didn’t seem to get it.
One of the surest paths to failure is to convince yourself that you’re immune to it. That’s pride talking. Know what you’re capable of. In Paul’s words, “let he that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.”
“Even if I have to die,” Peter said. Wow. Sounds good. Until he got face-to-face with a girl who accused him of talking like Jesus.
In all fairness, Peter-the-fisherman did whip out a sword when Jesus got arrested. And he swung it at the head of the high priest’s servant. Sliced his ear off instead and Jesus had to interrupt the arrest proceedings to miraculously reattach the ear.
A really awkward scene.
Anyway, that was Peter’s best shot at keeping his huge promise, and when Jesus told him to put his soldier toys up, he was left with no other plan than running.
It may be passion that moves you to load up on promises. But it’s pride that makes you think you can keep them. As my dad often says, “Don’t let your mouth overload your behind.”
Speaking of passion, one of the biggest problems of pride is that it confuses emotional commitment with power. Nobody has ever questioned Peter’s sincerity or his passion. But if you think caring or feeling is enough to deliver when the real tests come, you’re in for a humiliating ride.
Please… be passionately in love with Jesus. But don’t trust your passion as your source of power. That’s just a noisy form of pride. The road to discipleship oblivion is littered with the declarations of the passionate.
The Reality of Pride
It’s true that in the story Peter mouthed off with pride, then ran. But the reality is that he had forsaken Jesus spiritually long before he deserted Him physically.
The same is true of my outward manifestations, as well as yours. What comes out is a reflection of what was inside. In the case of pride, if you’re manifesting the symptioms, you have already forsaken Jesus. You may not know how it will flesh out yet, but it eventually will.
What’s more, if you hang on to the stubborn insistence that you can do it yourself (clue: if you find yourself arguing with God about it), you are headed for a fall. Again, you may not know how it will flesh out, but eventually it’s happening.
That said, pride doesn’t have to have the final word on your life and work. The same God who warned about the danger of pride offers promise after promise to those who are willing to humble themselves. Even Peter, who failed so epically, lived to see many more days of usefulness, power, and effectiveness.
Learn the lessons of the man who, having heard the rooster crow, went out and wept bitterly. Know what you’re capable of. Know what you’re powerless to overcome in your own strength. Humble yourself, and you won’t be haunted by your own pride.
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