John 13:37-38

Have you ever felt the piercing sting of being betrayed by a friend? It’s the feeling of finding out that the love you have for a person isn’t truly reciprocated. It’s finding out you were being used. It’s the realization that someone you trusted was not in fact trustworthy. That feeling cuts deep. At that moment, there isn’t any balm that can be applied that will adequately alleviate the hurt.

The feeling of being betrayed is a feeling Jesus knew all too well. He was betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, and he was denied by Peter, one of his closest friends. Listen to the way Jesus prophesied Peter’s coming denial.

37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (John 13:37-38)

I wonder how much it pained Jesus to acknowledge that one of his best friends was going to deny that he ever knew him – not only once, but three times.

In reading passages like this, it can be easy to apply that passage in a way where the takeaway is, “Try really hard to not be like Peter.” That can easily become the punchline. Betrayal and denial hurts Jesus, so don’t betray or deny him. It’s true that denial pricks the heart of God, but I see a deeper and more profound takeaway.

See, we are all like Peter. Every one of us will deny Jesus on some level. We will all fail to live up to the calling that he has for our lives. In those moments, we can remember the moment Peter so brazenly uttered, “I will lay down my life for you!” Jesus knew Peter would fail to live up to even his own expectations of himself. However, it’s also at this moment that Jesus demonstrates to Peter that it’s his faithfulness, not Peter’s, that is his true hope. The same holds true for us. While we are called to lay down our lives to follow, our life is found in the fact that he laid down his life for us; not the other way around. Our hope is built on his faithfulness, not our own; on his sacrifice, not ours.

When we deny or betray Jesus in our thoughts or actions, we are called to repent and believe the good news. The good news is that Jesus is the Faithful One. It’s his faithfulness that empowers and inspires ours, and it’s his faithfulness that ultimately saves people like us who never fully outgrow our propensity to fearfully shrink back into patterns of betrayal and denial. Take some time and praise God for his immense grace.

Pastor Ryan Paulson

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