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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Rick began preaching in Wallace, WV (1999-2002), worked with the church in Proctor, WV (2002-2004), and is a graduate of the West Virginia School of Preaching (2004). He served the church in Prestonsburg, KY from 2004-2014, and is currently laboring with the Massillon, OH congregation (2014-present). He also serves on the resource staff for the Warren Christian Apologetics Center (WCAC), a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to "setting forth evidence for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the deity of Jesus Christ." Outside of his biblical studies, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Samantha, their six children (Christian, Hannah, Noah, Emma, Evan & Leah), a sweet Golden Retriever (Max), an energetic Australian Shepherd (Mallie), and a very chill Goldendoodle (Moses). He also specializes in boring people with his guitar (he's also been known to do this with his sermons), prefers Earl Grey (now that he can no longer drink coffee), and studying personal finance.

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