“Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will’” (Matt 26:33, NIV). How often we are like Peter—believing that our conviction to follow Jesus is so determined, that regardless of circumstance, there is no trace of doubt and we definitely will not disown our Lord. When we have such a belief, what Jesus said to Peter becomes harsh to the ear: “Truly I tell you,…this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (Matt 26:34, NIV). Not just once, Jesus said, but three times, tonight.
I wonder how Peter felt after hearing what Jesus had said. He probably found such prophecy difficult to accept! Yet, he knew that the words of Jesus were trustworthy. His knowledge of self and the declaration made by Jesus caused him to sink momentarily into a state of denial. He defended himself by declaring that even if he had to die with Jesus, he would never disown him.
Our knowledge of ourselves often proves to be different from our actual self.
When faced with the impending suffering at the cross, Jesus was heavily burdened. Although He was a perfect human, knowing what was to come still caused Him to be in great distress and sorrow.
We often overlook this aspect of human weakness that Jesus displayed—which remains a mystery in God’s great creation. The worry, sadness and pain one experiences when faced with difficulties, dangers and suffering ought to be seen as a gift from God. Human weakness may not necessarily lead to negative consequences. It could in fact cause humanity to shine.
We witness this truth in the numerous inspirational life stories that have bloomed under the light of people’s victories over their weaknesses. The COVID-19 epidemic has allowed us to see the opposing responses one could have in the face of crisis.
Knowing that the suffering of the cross was at hand, Jesus urged His disciples to remain watchful in prayer. He brought three disciples to keep watch and to pray along with Him as He was deeply grieved, to the point of death.
The way to overcome suffering is to be watchful in prayer, while also inviting others to pray along with you.
The prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is key to attaining victory over the path of the cross.
This article was first published in Chinese in the March 2020 issue of CAC News (Issue #417).
The Rev Dr Gregory Goh Nai Lat is the President of the Chinese Annual Conference.
Photo courtesy of the Rev Gregory Goh Nai Lat