Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, ”Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, ”Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” – John 13:36-38
Jesus’ words were hard for the disciples to hear – maybe impossible, especially as his death neared. These loyal followers knew that Jesus had the power to avoid being caught and to escape death. What they couldn’t understand was why he was determined neither to flee nor to fight. Jesus was telling them what they could not understand – that he was going to lay down his life like a good shepherd for his sheep. Such an idea was repugnant to the disciples. They were determined to fight for Jesus’ life. “I will lay down my life for you,” Peter proclaimed, in an attempt to turn the tables and in an expression of his readiness to fight to the finish.
Jesus’ reply once again shocked his followers, as he told them that there would be no fight to the finish for his life, that he would freely give himself over to the authorities; and that they would all abandon him before the night was over. “Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times,” Jesus told Peter.
Surely we can all understand the disciples’ struggles. We are hard-wired to resist death, to fight for life. The confusion for Peter and the rest centered on their attempt to fit Jesus’ life and teachings into their sensibilities. More often than not, Jesus’ words and actions stretched their understandings and challenged their thought patterns. Nothing did so more than the idea that Jesus was not going to fight for his life.
Of course, what the disciples did not know and would not understand until everything was accomplished was that Jesus was indeed fighting. He was at war in the battle between good and evil, and his action on the cross of Calvary would be the final triumphant blow. This was not a battle “against flesh and blood,” as Paul wrote years later, “But against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The disciples were fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way with the wrong weapons. Jesus’ battle was against sin and death, and he was well armed with truth and grace.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for fighting my battle with your life and love. Amen.
A Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston