Perhaps boys, more so than girls, are taught at a young age never to let others see their weaknesses because people will exploit and take advantage of them. For many kids, if not the majority, that point proves itself all too quickly when someone violates their trust for the first time. The lessons we learn from showing weakness early in life set the stage for when we enter adulthood. We enter adulthood with a mindset to only show strength, never any weakness, and in so doing, many men, and perhaps women too, fail to learn how to deal with the emotional trials of life and live a life feeling insecure.
Scripture tells us about a man who seemed to cling to the “show strength, no weakness” mindset; his name is Simon Peter. It is fair to say that Peter was an impulsive boastful man whom, through Scripture, we learn was an insecure man on the inside despite the hardened confident expression he carried on the outside. Peter is not unlike many people seen today with a hardened outside while weak and insecure on the inside. The best example occurs the night before Jesus’ arrest when the Lord lays a bombshell on His disciples and Peter’s impulsive boastfulness, his outer strength, kicks into high gear.
“At the Mount of Olives, Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.‘” But Peter said, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.”Matt 26:31;33-35
To his credit, Peter does jump to the Lord’s defense when Judas Iscariot and the Roman guard came to take Jesus into custody, but Jesus calmed Peter’s aggression and allowed Himself to be placed under arrest. An interesting point to make here is that today, some Christians respond with verbal aggression when others question God’s word or God Himself, especially in the realm of social media. They stand at the ready to rapid-fire verse after verse of Scripture in a negative fashion to where the other person either relents or moves on. In most cases, what they present is true; after all, it is from God’s word, but what is absent is Christ-like compassion, so the result is a battle won and a soul-winning opportunity lost.
Now, back to Peter. While the Roman guard escorted Jesus, Peter followed at a distance. When a girl approached him, she said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean,” but Peter was quick to deny he knew the Lord. Then, another girl told those around her that “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth,” and again, Peter had denied it, saying, “I do not know the man.” Yet again, a little while later, a group approached Peter, saying, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” At that point, Scripture says Peter began to curse and swear, showing the facade of his outer strength that was in stark contrast to his inner fear, saying, “I do not know the man!” (Matt. 26:69-74).
At that moment, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words of Jesus, and the Bible says, “He went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75). The once hardened outer shell of an impulsive boastful Peter was now crushed under an emotional flood to reveal his inner-weakness, a weakness that Peter might have faced for the first time in his life. However, the story does not end there; in his brokenness, Peter found renewed strength on a beach by the Sea of Galilee. After His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples on the beach when they returned from a night of fishing. When Peter realized it was Jesus, the Bible says he jumped overboard and swam to shore to see Him.
“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you ove Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I [l]love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.“John 21:15-17
In this passage, we see Jesus using the word love three times; however, unlike the English word love that we use to apply to just about anything, the original Greek language had different words to express various forms of love. In the first two questions, Jesus uses the Greek word “Agape,” which is an all-giving sacrificial love, such as the love Jesus showed by going to the cross in our place. When Peter answers Jesus, he told the Lord that he loves Him, but Peter used a different Greek word for love. He uses the word “philia,” which is a brotherly form of love. The third time Jesus asks Peter, Jesus used the word “philia” instead of “agape.”
In other words, Jesus asked, “Are you sure, Peter? Are you even sure you love Me like a brother?” You see, Jesus was drawing Peter out; He wanted Peter to be honest with Him and to be honest with himself. Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (philia) You.” Satisfied with Peter’s genuine answer, the real Peter, not the one-time impulsive boastful Peter, the Lord said, “Tend My sheep” (John 21:17). That is what Jesus desires from us, honesty with Him, and with ourselves. When we hide from our feelings and weaknesses, we deceive ourselves, and for some, they can spend a lifetime maintaining a strong outer front for others while a time bomb of sorts builds on the inside. God has a better way.
“The devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”Billy Graham
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.”Isaiah 40:29
Moving forward, let us not fear weakness, but learn to embrace and draw strength from it. As Christians, we know that our greatest strength comes to us in our weakness because, in our weakness, we find God’s strength. The LORD said, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Knowing that fact, Apostle Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who is against us? (Rom. 8:31), and as far as showing our feelings, since Jesus, being God, wept, so can we.
Graham, B. (1991). Peace with God. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.