Why Peter failed, and Jesus didn’t

Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38, NASB)

Jesus’ ordeal on the cross was not only extremely painful, it was humiliating. It was not only a punishment for the offender, it also served as a warning to onlookers. It was a calculated, gruesome spectacle.

But there was more than the physical agony and shame (Heb. 12:2) of the cross. Jesus’ succumbed to the physical torture of the cross, but the anticipation in the Garden brought him to the brink.

I was reminded recently that it was here, in the Gethsemane Garden, that Jesus’ victory was practically won. How?

With no risk of oversimplifying: it was prayer.

Jesus poured out his soul to his Father, proclaiming his utter inability to carry out this mission without God’s help (Luke 22:39-46). It seems to me that, without this bold and immeasurably humble concession, undoubtedly, the humanity of Jesus would have failed this hour.

In striking contrast, we have no such prayers recorded from Peter that night. Jesus even warned Peter of Satan’s intention to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31-32). Perhaps Peter did not take this seriously.

Jesus called upon God for Peter’s strength; Peter called upon himself for strength (Luke 22:33).

While Jesus prayed with heavy heart, Peter slept with heavy eyes (Matthew 26:42).

Jesus confessed his weakness to God in the Garden; Peter denied his Lord in the courtyard (Luke 22:54-62).

Jesus: regular prayer, and continual reliance on God (Matthew 26:52-54).

Peter: no known prayer, and perpetual reliance on self (Matthew 26:51).

The outcomes should not be surprising.

Will we fare differently?

Finally, think on this: the Lord attained our salvation largely because of the value he placed on prayer.

May we all learn this lesson well.

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A graduate of West Virginia School of Preaching (2004), Rick has been in full-time ministry since then serving the church in Prestonsburg, KY (2004-2014), and Massillon, OH (2014-present). He enjoys spending time with his wife, Samantha, their six children, and enjoys writing, playing and writing music, a good cup of coffee and a hot wood stove. He hates shoveling snow and plans to buy a snow blower soon.

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