After singing a hymn with them, Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives. “Tonight, all of you will desert Me,” He told them. “The Scriptures say ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee, and meet you there.”
And Peter –impulsive, honest, loyal, and passionately sincere — objected. “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will!” he declared.
“I tell you the truth, Peter” replied Jesus, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
“NO!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And at this point, all the other disciples joined in, vowing their loyalty to Jesus, even to the death.
We know the rest of the story, how Peter could not stay awake with Jesus in the garden, how he rushed to Jesus’ defense with a sword when Judas arrived, how he followed Jesus to the high priest’s house. And we know how, in three unguarded moments, Peter denied his Lord, exactly as Jesus had said.
Have you ever looked with wonder at the patience Jesus had with His disciples? Even after His exchange with Peter, knowing what would happen, Jesus still took Peter, James and John with Him, apart from the other disciples. He didn’t use his foreknowledge of Peter’s weakness to send him away, or to relegate him to a less trusted position. Remember, whenever Jesus took His “inner circle” with Him– into Jairus’ house, up to the mount of Transfiguration, etc.– the three disciples He chose were Peter, James, and John. Here, in the garden, at the beginning of His intense anguish, He didn’t replace Peter, even though He knew he would let Him down…
Today, we are the recipients of Jesus’ patience and forbearance. He knows our weaknesses, too. And the words of the prophet are as true today as they were two thousand years ago– “He will not crush the weakest reed, or put out a flickering candle.”