"Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." (Matt. 26:33)So why did Jesus make this prediction?
Jesus was communicating an important lesson to Peter and the rest of his students regarding humility and devotion. We find later that Jesus' prediction came true:
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. 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. (Matt. 26:70-75)This is not simply another miracle by Jesus. There is an important lesson to all of us within this event.
Jesus made his prediction in response to Peter's confidence of his devotion and dedication to Jesus. Jesus was illustrating that being confident about our devotion is a mistake.
This is based on the fact that any devotion we have to God is granted by God. Devotion is part of a relationship, and in this relationship, God is the gatekeeper.
This is not unlike other relationships. We might be confident that we are someone's boyfriend or girlfriend, but what if the other person doesn't want to be our girlfriend or boyfriend? A relationship always requires the participation of someone else - someone we cannot control.
In the same way, we can't simply go through some mechanical rituals and expect that we are now linked up with the Supreme Being, and have a solid relationship with Him. God must also participate. And we have no control over God's participation.
This requires humility. While many boast their allegiance to Jesus and/or God among the many sectarian religions of today, it is humble devotion that God is attracted to.
Just imagine if we announced to the whole world on television that someone was our boyfriend or girlfriend without their permission, or even without their agreeing that we were even officially our boyfriend and girlfriend. How would they feel? Especially if they were a well-known person? They would undoubtedly feel that we were using them to bring attention to ourselves. They would feel that we were abusing the relationship for our own gain.
It is no different when a person makes confident announcements about their faith. Just think about the various confident comments we often hear: "I am born again." "I am saved." "I love Jesus." These are grandiose statements intended to bring attention to ourselves. To announce to others that we have arrived.
This is not devotion, because real devotion is inseparable from humility. Real devotion does not come with big announcements about ones own dedication, as Simon Peter made to Jesus.
Jesus was trying to teach this lesson of humble devotion to his students. And God executed the lesson as Peter indeed denied Jesus three times.
The lesson is that regardless of whatever devotion we have developed, or whatever knowledge we have been given by virtue of that devotion, it evaporates with arrogance. All our devotion and spiritual knowledge is granted by and comes from the Supreme Being. He is the source of all of it.
Devotion or commitment is part of a relationship. The Supreme Being is a gentle, loving and playful person. But He does not want to hang around those who are arrogant and self-confident.
Who would? Would any of us want to play with an arrogant team-member, who had little praise for others? And when the team wins, the person says they are the reason the team won? No one would want to be on his team. We like "team players," who humbly give credit to the team when the team wins.
Whether we like it or not, we are each members of a special, personal "team." Our "team" is composed of the Supreme Being, His loving servants and representatives and each of us as individuals. Who are we to make grandiose announcements about how "saved" or otherwise spiritually advanced we are?
Rather, any advancement we have has been mercifully given to us.
This is the lesson Jesus was trying to teach Peter, and his students in general. Jesus reiterated this point as he also said:
"Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matt. 23:10-11)Being a servant is a position of humility, where a person is wanting to provide service to another. Jesus wanted his students to serve the Supreme Being, and also serve humanity by passing on his teachings to others. Jesus taught this by example:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)Developing real humility was a big part of Jesus' teachings, because humility, ultimately is our natural position. Jesus illustrated his own humility and devotion to the Supreme Being as he prayed to God and sang hymns to God on separate occasions:
After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:46)These illustrate that Jesus was humble regarding even his own relationship with God. Praying to God and singing hymns to God are indications of humble devotion in practice.
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matt. 14:26)
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matt. 26:39)
We were each created by the Supreme Being to be one of His loving care-givers and playmates. But we have forgotten this relationship due to our arrogance and self-centeredness. That is why we are away from Him, within these temporary physical bodies within the physical world.
Returning to our natural position thus requires a change of consciousness. Confidently proclaiming to be "saved" or "born again" is not the same as a change of consciousness. Changing our consciousness requires humbly coming to know, love and serve the Supreme Being. We must re-develop our loving relationship with Him in order to return to our natural position as His servitor. This is why Jesus taught:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)