Peter's Faith Builds Prior to the Last Supper with Jesus
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain where they were alone. This happened just six days after Peter stated that he believed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), Son of the living God. Jesus changed. “His face was shining like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white.” The three saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. (How they recognized the two men is a mystery. Were they wearing name tags? Did Jesus say, “Hi Mo! Hi Eli!” when he greeted them? Did Jesus formally introduce them.) The point is, the four of them had come up the mountain alone. Now there were two men talking to Jesus who had not traveled with them – not ordinary people. Jesus appearance also changed dramatically, a bright cloud came over him; a voice boomed from it, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” The disciples were terrified. This incident provided Peter with additional confirmation of what he understood about who Jesus was.
There were other confirming incidents as well. There was the time that Jesus went to heal Jairus’s daughter who died before his arrival. Peter, James and John were invited into the room to observe as Jesus raised the girl to life. Peter was there when Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the tomb after he had been dead for four days. Peter noticed what happened to the fig tree a day after Jesus cursed it on their way into Jerusalem.
In the third year of Jesus’ travels with Peter as a disciple Passover was approaching. Peter had accumulated plenty to convince him that Jesus was the Messiah. Peter, James and John were part of the inner circle of Jesus’ companions. Jesus sent Peter and John into the city with unique instructions on preparing a room for Passover where Jesus would share a last meal with his disciples. This meal was going to be special.
There may have been anticipation that Jesus would reveal his Messianic purpose. Just days before he had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of the crowds and palm branches. Immediately afterward, in Jerusalem, he overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple. At this supper, Jesus attempted to teach the disciples things they needed to know about future events. The disciples, including Peter, did not understand the nature of the coming kingdom Jesus had been talking about. The Gospel of Luke tells us, “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” It is easy to imagine that Peter was part of that argument, and probably James and John, the Sons of Thunder, but no one is named. Luke records Jesus teaching related to this, about leading by serving. The Gospel of John adds action to Jesus’ teaching and seems to put an unwilling Peter at the center of the lesson.
John 13:3-10 Good News Bible Text
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God.
4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist.
5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?"
7 Jesus answered him, "You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later."
8 Peter declared, "Never at any time will you wash my feet!" "If I do not wash your feet," Jesus answered, "you will no longer be my disciple."
9 Simon Peter answered, "Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!"
10 Jesus said, "Those who have taken a bath are completely clean and do not have to wash themselves, except for their feet. All of you are clean—all except one."
John 13:3-10 Good News Bible Video
Peter's Dirty Feet?
Can you imagine Peter’s take on this unexpected servile role taken by Jesus in the middle of supper? Peter sees Jesus as the promised Messiah! He saw him glow as he talked to Moses and Elijah! He saw Jesus raise dead people to life and quietly cause a fig tree by the roadside to whither and die in a single day! Peter expected Jesus to announce his kingdom! He, as a member of Jesus’ inner circle, expected to have a prominent role in that kingdom. John the Baptist had said that Jesus was one whose sandal strap he was not worthy to untie. How could Peter allow one so great to wash his feet? Peter was “All In” for Jesus but saw Jesus in a kingly role.
Luke tells us that at this same meal Jesus said, ”Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
Despite Jesus’ prayer that Peter’s faith would not fail, it seems Jesus knew Peter’s faith would falter -- and that he would turn back.
Peter replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." John’s Gospel says that Peter vowed, “I will lay down my life for you.”
In response, Jesus asked, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Before the rooster crows you will disown me three times!”
Matthew 26:30-35 NIV Text
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
34 "Truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
35 But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:30-35 NIV Video
The Last Supper in Preparation for Passover
This last supper with Jesus was not the Passover meal. It was in preparation for the Passover. Jesus death occurred at the time when the Passover lamb was normally slaughtered, and Jesus body had to be taken down from the cross before the sunset that began the Passover Sabbath. We know that this last supper was not the Passover meal because when the meal was over, they went out to the Mount of Olives. It was Jewish custom to stay in the house after the Passover meal. Also, a detachment of soldiers and representatives of the chief priests and Pharisees came to arrest Jesus in the garden after the meal. They would not have done this on a Sabbath.
Jesus knew what was going to take place and was in agonizing prayer over it. He asked Peter, along with James and John to be there in special prayer with him, but they had trouble staying awake.
Matthew 26:45-56 NIV Text
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him."
49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, "Do what you came for, friend." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.
56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Matthew 26:45-56 NIV Video
Peter Ready to Die for Jesus
Peter may have fallen asleep a few times while Jesus was praying, but when the soldiers arrived, he was awake and ready to defend his Christ. Peter pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Peter had meant it when he said, “I will lay down my life for you.”
Can you imagine Peter’s confusion? Jesus tells Peter to put away the sword and immediately heals the enemy who Peter has just wounded in defense of Jesus.
Matthew says that all the disciples then deserted Jesus and fled (Peter included). Peter and another disciple, however, follow at a distance right up to the courtyard of the high priest, the place where Jesus was taken for questioning. The other disciple, not named, is known to the high priest and went into the high priest’s courtyard while Peter waited outside until the other disciple got Peter admitted.
Matthew 26:69-75 NIV Text
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."
72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away."
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.
75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:69-75 NIV Video
Peter Traumatized in the Shadows
Peter tries to remain incognito as he sits or stands in the courtyard, probably listening as Jesus is questioned. It is hard to imagine the thoughts that might have been going through Peter’s mind as he stood near the fire trying to keep warm. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God had been taken by force, was being questioned and falsely accused. Peter, his boastful defender, stands shivering, helpless, and trying to remain unnoticed. In his efforts to remain unnoticed he hears the rooster crow as he denies knowledge of Jesus the third time. It was as Jesus predicted. Peter went outside and wept bitterly
As the night wears on Jesus is taken elsewhere and is condemned to death on the cross. We do not know how much of that process Peter witnessed. We do not know if Peter followed as Jesus was taken to Golgotha that morning. Was he, like John, standing there watching Jesus die on that cross? Did he perhaps witness the soldier thrusting a spear in Jesus side? Was he with the women as they observed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus preparing Jesus for burial?
Death by crucifixion was a horrid, brutal, agonizing, and demeaning death. How did Peter mentally and emotionally process all this considering his previous declaration that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the Living God? Where does the argument, only hours before at supper, about who would be greatest in Christ’s kingdom fit with all of this? Do you think Peter may have been traumatized by what took place?