“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’” John 13:37–38
When I was a child I remember having my parents tell me that they knew me better than I knew myself. I also remember feeling a bit offended that they could even think such a thing. However, now that I’ve lived nearly five decades and have raised children of my own I now understand how a parent could actually be in a position where they understood their children better than their children understood themselves.
Jesus’ question as to whether or not Peter will lay down his life for him and his pronouncement that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows carries some of the same weight as my parents declaration with the added substance of a precise prediction as to what Peter will actually do.
What we’re supposed to learn from this is that we don’t know ourselves nearly as well as we think we do. Our estimation of our own strength is inflated and our understanding of our own weakness is woefully inadequate. We’d all like to imagine ourselves as being someone to be counted upon but we simply don’t know how weak, vulnerable, unreliable and prone to failure we are.
It’s not that we’re capable of nothing. Oh no, we all have abilities and strengths. We’re just not strong enough or capable enough to be relied upon, even by ourselves. We all need guidance and help.
This is especially true when it comes to living a Christlike life. The inclinations of our sinful nature will never accurately guide us toward the mark, and Satan will always be there to make things even more confusing and difficult. Even our love for Christ and his for us will be tested and called into question.
How do we succeed? We have to learn to only trust Jesus. We must respectfully distrust others and especially doubt our own goodness and rightness. It’s only by continually looking to Jesus, and listening to his Spirit, and abandoning our own impulses and desires that we’ll ever become the mature Christians our Father created us to be.
This is what Jesus meant, in Luke 9:23, when he said we must take up our cross daily. The apostle Paul affirms this is in his own experience when he says, in 1 Corinthians 15:31, that he dies daily.
Paul had it right, in Hebrews 12:2, when he proclaimed that Jesus is both the author and the finisher of our faith.
Our only hope is to look away from ourselves and each other and look to Jesus. Everything good and worthy begins and ends in him.