John 13:38
"Will you lay down your life for Me?" Jesus replied. "Truly, truly, I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.
A Rash VowAlexander MaclarenJohn 13:38
Not Now, But AfterwardsJ. Parker, D. D.John 13:36-38
Peter's Curiosity and PresumptionW. Jay.John 13:36-38
Readiness for DeathH. S. Toms.John 13:36-38
Speech and ActionJ. Parker, D. D.John 13:36-38
The Now and Then of Following ChristI. Watts., W. Hay Aitken, M. A.John 13:36-38
The Withheld Completions of LifePhillips Brooks, D. D.John 13:36-38
Unlawful CuriosityM. Henry.John 13:36-38
We Must Watch Our Weak PointsA. Mahan, D. D.John 13:36-38
There was a reason why Peter could not follow Jesus them He could not lay down his life for Christ until Christ had laid down his life for him. Peter did sincerely aspire to obedience and consecration. But much was necessary before he should be able to realize his aspirations. He must needs learn his own Weakness, and prove the strength and grace of his Lord. When these lessons had been learned, he was ready enough to take up his cross and to follow the Master, even unto death.


1. It consists in personal relation, as is apparent from the use of the terms "I" and "thee." In order to a right course, it is necessary to understand and to feel that the individual soul has to be brought into conscious and immediate contact with Christ Jesus. The experience of the Apostle Paul may be quoted as exemplifying this: "Are loved me, and gave himself for me." If Jesus be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, as a personal and living Benefactor, he must be approached in spirit and by faith by every one who would know his power and feel his love.

2. It consists in following Christ. We must confide in him, admire and love him, in order that we may follow him. By "following him" - an expression frequent in the New Testament - is to be understood imitating his example and doing his will. Such conduct is the proof of the reality of the personal relationship presumed. It is not a simple act, but a constant habit, that is intended by this phrase. To follow a guide, a man must follow him in every stage of the journey, until the end is reached. So is it with the Christian's relation to his Lord. It may be that to follow Christ will involve the taking up of his cress, sharing his persecution, perhaps even his death. This Peter learned in after-years. But the question for Christ's disciple is not - Whither will this resolve lead me? but rather - Am I in the way of obedience? in the footsteps of my Lord?

II. THIS QUESTION IMPLIES THE IMMEDIATE CLAIM OF RELIGION. "Even now" - such is the language of Peter's ardent spirit. The summons of God is to prompt, unhesitating obedience: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." The possibility of blessing is assured upon compliance with the requirement of immediate application: "Now is the accepted time." The promise is to those who give heed without delay "Today if ye will hear his voice." It may be urged upon the young that theirs is the period of life in which it is wise to resolve upon the path of earth's pilgrimage. It may be urged upon the old that the present is almost the only time left for them to obey the voice of Heaven. Some for the first time hear the truth with conviction of the understanding, with emotion of the heart; let such take advantage of this new enlightenment and enthusiasm, lest the unheeded voice of conscience be hushed. Others have often acknowledged the justice of the Divine claim, but have hardened themselves against it by worldliness and sin; let such remember that now may be their last opportunity, and beware lest it pass away and leave them unblessed.

III. THIS QUESTION SUGGESTS THE CONSIDERATION OF THE REASONS WHY HEARERS OF THE GOSPEL DO NOT FOLLOW JESUS EVEN NOW. Of course there are many who have no disposition to seek what is good; but even amongst such as do not deny the claims of Christ, and are not indifferent to those claims, there are to be found some who do not arise and undertake the Christian pilgrimage. This may be explained in one of two ways.

1. On the part of some there is unwillingness to give up the service of sin. The emoluments or the pleasures of sin may have a stronger attraction for them than the voice of Divine love counteracts. Not insensible to the nobility and blessedness of a religious life, they yet suffer themselves to be drawn into what they know is an inferior path, by the fascinations of carnal joys, of sinful society, of worldly interest. There may be in their minds a hope that at some future time, when these attractions have lost much of their power, another course may be taken, a better part be chosen.

2. On the part of others there is a habit of indecision and procrastination. A want of depth of nature, a disinclination for serious deliberation, a weak susceptibility to various distractions, or a habitual fickleness, prevent some from following Christ, in following whom they would be acting in conformity with their highest convictions and with the impulses, of their better nature. They are far from denying the truth, from deliberately rejecting the Savior, from willfully despising their opportunities, from ridiculing the offers of the gospel; yet they are so foolish as to put off a practical acknowledgment of the claims of Christ until "a more convenient season."


1. They may. The invitations of the Word of God are many and plain and persuasive. What words were more frequent and emphatic on the Nips of Jesus than such as these: "Come unto me!" "Follow me!"

2. They can. Christ does not call men, and then withhold the grace which is needed to obey the call. The help of the Holy Spirit is necessary, and that help is graciously bestowed.

3. They ought. Obedience to the voice which speaks from heaven, to the voice which speaks within, to duty, to conscience, to God, requires us all to follow Jesus "even now." - T.

Lord, whither goest Thou?
It is a common fault among us to be more inquisitive concerning things secret, which belong to God only, than concerning things revealed, which belong to us and to our children — more desirous to have our curiosity gratified, than our conscience directed — to know what is done in heaven, than what we ought to do to get thither. It is easy to observe it in the conversation of Christians, how soon a discourse of what is plain and edifying is dropped, and no more is said of it; the subject is exhausted; while matter of doubtful disputation runs into an endless strife of words.

(M. Henry.)

I. His CURIOSITY. The question was occasioned by ver. 33; and as soon as our Saviour paused, Peter suddenly makes the inquiry.

1. Here is something which we know not how entirely to censure. The imperfections of good men betray their excellences. We see Peter's love to his Lord, and concern for His presence. When Elijah was going to be taken up, Elisha followed him. When Jonathan and David were about to separate, they fell upon each other's neck and wept. When, at Miletus, "Paul kneeled down and prayed with the brethren, they all wept sore." But think of Christ! What a Benefactor, what a Master was He! Could Peter then view His removal with indifference?

2. But if our Saviour blames Peter, Peter was blameworthy. He was a little too curious — a fault by no means uncommon. For how many are more anxious to know secret things than to improve the things revealed. We are all fender of speculation than practice. Whereas, we ought to remember, that, in a state where we have so much to do, and so little time to do it in, we should secure ourselves from all superfluous engagements.

3. Our Saviour, therefore, never encouraged this principle. When a man asked Him, "Lord, are there few that shall be saved?" He did not even notice the trifler: He said unto them, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." So here He shows His judgment of the inquiry by eluding it. But though He does not gratify, He instructs. In two senses, Peter was to follow Him, in due time —(1) To glory. It was what our Lord prayed for, and what He promised (John 17:24). So we are to be forever with the Lord. He has gone to prepare a place for us. But for every thing there is a season. He could not follow Him now. Though our Saviour's hour was come, Peter's was not; though the Master had finished the work given Him to do, the servant had scarcely begun his — and "we are all immortal till our work is done." Christians are sometimes impatient, but this is wrong. "The best frame we can be in is to be ready to go, and willing to stay." The eagerness is not only wrong, but useless. What would it avail the husbandman to fret? Would this bring harvest the sooner? He cannot reap in May, the order of nature forbids it. There is also an order in grace. Why cannot you follow Him now? You have an aged mother to support, or an infant charge to rear, or an institution of charity to found, or to exemplify religion in your practice, or to recommend it by your sufferings.(2) To the cross. But he could not follow Him now, because he had not sufficient faith and resolution to suffer. This shows us that our Lord's dealings with His people are founded not only in kindness, but in wisdom and prudence. He adapts the burden to the shoulder, or fits the shoulder to the burden. "As thy day, so shall thy strength be." Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof — and what is better, sufficient for it too will be the grace.

II. HIS PRESUMPTION (vers. 37, 38). Ah, Peter, this is sooner said than done. Life is not so easily parted with. You trembled upon the water; be not so confident now. Note —

1. The crime was heinous. To deny his Master was unfaithfulness: his Friend, perfidy: his Benefactor, ingratitude: his Redeemer, impiety. This, too, was the conduct of one who had been called from a low condition in life to the high honour of apostleship — of one who had seen His miracles, etc. Three aggravations are here mentioned.(1) He was warned — he could not plead ignorance.(2) The sin was immediately committed. Things soon wear off from the mind; but here was no time for forgetfulness.(3) It was repeated, "thrice." A man may be surprised and overtaken in a fault; but, the moment after, reflection may return; and he may flee. But Peter, after his first offence, renews it again — and again — and each time waxes worse and worse.

2. The lessons:

1. The foreknowledge of our Saviour.

2. What reason have we to exclaim, with David, "Lord, what is man!" Survey him under the greatest advantages and obligations. There is nothing too vile for us to fall into, if we are left of Him who alone can keep us from failing.

3. How little we are acquainted with ourselves. Peter spoke according to his feelings. But sincerity is not constancy. There is a goodness, compared to the morning cloud and early dew, that soon passeth away. Peter did not consider the difference between an impulse and a principle; between an hour of ease and a moment of trial. Hazael's case is a strong one; but it will apply, in various degrees, to ourselves. God only knows how much of our innocency has been owing to principle, or the absence of temptation; or what we should have been in conditions the reverse of those which have sheltered our weakness.

4. The most confident are the most exposed; and the most humble the most safe. "When I am weak, then I am most strong." "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe." Conclusion: We do not wonder at this sad revolution in Peter. He is proud and self-sufficient. "Pride goes before destruction," etc. I never saw a professor of religion full of confidence in himself, and speaking censoriously of others, but who fell into some gross crime, or into some great calamity.

(W. Jay.)

1. Children will have everything now: "afterwards" is a word that plagues them. As life advances we become more intimately acquainted with the word, and come to like it. We know that yesterday has gone beyond recall, and that tomorrow is coming and always available.

2. This is the second time the same thing has been said, on this same occasion, to the same man, and both times in a Master's tone, delivered with a brother's heart and voice (ver. 7). So this child-man was constantly put back and told to wait till the clock struck, and the hour had come when he should have the keener vision, the more sensitive heart, the more receptive spirit and understanding mind. This was the training that Peter needed. He was a man who wanted everything done instantaneously. The Lord knowing this said the most vexing words, "Not now." We want it too, and when we are mad with impatience He says it quietly and sovereignly; but adds "afterwards" in the same tone, for Christ lived in tomorrow.


1. Revelation. We cannot follow any great doctrine in all the range of its thoughts and in all the possibilities of its issues. Who can explain the atonement? We begin in the right spirit when we begin in the spirit of waiting. I need the cross; I accept it, but cannot tell the measure of the oblation or its efficacy. But afterwards there will be a higher school, additional facilities, then I shall know.

2. The mysteries of daily providence. "Thou canst not follow Me" — not from one locality to another, but in thought, purpose, and sovereign decree. Who can keep pace with the Great Walker? I halt, stagger, fall, half rise again, and am down before I can straighten myself I cannot follow except in the dim far distance now, but afterward. Our strange constitution, individuality, sufferings, are heavy burdens. Explanation would help us to bear them. Why should I wear this chain? be encompassed by this cloud? The answer is "not now, but afterward." "No chastening, for the present seemeth joyous," etc.


1. The "now" is not evacuated of all meaning. To obey in the darkness is the great thing. Were I to say, "I will trust God in the seventh trouble because He has delivered me in six," it would be historically true and full of solace, but no indication of growth in grace. But he has grown in grace who says, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."

2. Obedience now is revelation afterward. He that doeth the will shall know of the doctrine. We do not know the joy which is laid up for us in complete obedience to the words, "Stand still and see the salvation of God." The next piece of knowledge comes easily. Were the child to be compelled to overleap seven years of the process of education, he would be overcome. What he has to do is to read the next line, and then to turn over the next page. What we as Christian students have to do is to keep to the present truth, do the next duty, and then the revelation will steal upon us without the violence of haste and the unrest of surprise. We cannot tell how the light grows, so in mental illumination and spiritual culture.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The first words spoken to Peter were "Follow Me"; almost the last were "Thou canst not follow Me now." After a long attachment to the Saviour it was a hard word. There is, however, always a "staying hand" in life as well as a "beckoning." The pillar of cloud moves and halts.

I. THE NEGATIVE PRESENT. When had it been that Simon could not go with his Master? He had accompanied Him to Bethany when seeking rest after tumult and turmoil; to the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was pre-glorified. Now he may not follow Him. Nor was this strange. The high priest only could enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, and Peter might not understand, but we do, that the great Day of Atonement had dawned. On to the cross, into the tomb, within the veil, only Jesus must go. Yet by this access to God was given. And now into the crucified life, as dead with Christ to the world; into the risen life, as new creatures in Him, we may follow Jesus; but further than this we may not go now; into the ascension life we are forbidden to enter at present, but we shall be permitted afterwards.

II. THE POSITIVE FUTURE. It was in the human life Jesus commanded Peter to follow Him, saying He would make them "fishers of men." They were to observe His modes of action and drink of His Spirit. And so with us. But is it not rather into the higher risen life that He bids us follow Him — the life of pardon, peace, sanctity, and spiritual power? And to this He is "the Way"; and by following that Way we shall reach the "afterwards" of His presence and glory (1 John 3:2).

(I. Watts.)

Why cannot I follow Thee now?

1. Why, indeed? There could be no doubt of his sincerity and attachment to his Master. I cannot believe that our Lord merely referred to the time for Peter's departure. Further, Peter did follow Christ so far as he could without dying; for there was still a considerable portion of ground to be traversed by those sacred feet. There lay before Him the way of sorrows, crowned with the cross on Calvary. Up to that point Simon Peter might have followed Christ, although he did not. Our Lord was referring to this first, though His words may have reached on to the glory that was at last to be revealed. The time was already come when His disciples were to be scattered and to leave Him alone. And knowing this, He says, "Whither I go," etc. And it is equally true that this same Simon Peter did follow the Lord Jesus Christ afterwards in the same sense in which he was now precluded from following Him.

2. As we ask Peter's question, we are led to consider our own experience. Is it not true that there sometimes seems to rise up in the very path of our inclinations and spiritual aspirations a strange, indescribable barrier — an inexorable "cannot" — that seems to bar the way to further progress? It is wise to ask this question, for if it be honestly put, the Holy Spirit of God will sooner or later show us what gives strength to this cruel and pitiless "cannot." Why could not Simon follow Jesus then? Because —

I. HE THOUGHT HE COULD. "I will lay down my life for Thy sake." There is nothing more common amongst Christians than the admission of our frailty and weakness. But what a great difference there is between making orthodox admissions and having a real consciousness of our own helplessness and dependence on a higher power. Sometimes, feeling ourselves to be a little weaker than we should be, we are ashamed of our infirmity. And sometimes, taught by many disasters, we entertain serious apprehensions about ourselves; but it is wonderful how self-confidence rebounds from the most distressing humiliations. We are quite determined to be more careful in the future. But how slow we are to abandon all confidence in the flesh! And it is not until we have learnt our helpless dependence that we can hope to follow Jesus. For flesh and blood can no more participate in the fellowship of Jesus' sufferings than they can inherit the kingdom of God. But Simon Peter was a man of strong determination; and such characters find it very hard to renounce all confidence in their moral vigour. It seemed incredible that he should turn his back upon his Master, and we can scarcely bring ourselves to believe that we could condescend to the sin, which subsequently we commit; and then by and by we learn our weakness amidst bitter tears, as Simon Peter did.

II. HE WAS AT THIS TIME WALKING BY SIGHT RATHER THAN BY FAITH. We do not reach the life of real faith till we are fully conscious of our own helplessness. How can we really trust Christ unless we have thoroughly learnt to distrust ourselves? Peter, walking by sight, his firmness was greatly dependent upon outward circumstances. As long as he saw Christ performing prodigies, or greeted by hosannas, it appeared easy to follow Him; but when all His glory seemed departed, his courage forsook him. Ah! how many of us are fair-weather sailors 1 and how few in their daily life by faith possess themselves of God.

III. HE WAS WALKING IN THE FLESH RATHER THAN IN THE SPIRIT. This same Peter, only a few weeks afterwards, when baptized with the Holy Ghost, stood before the rulers of his country with unblanched countenance, for that Master whom He denied. And for us also that Spirit is given. This qualification for following Jesus is closely connected with the other. They represent the two sides of a healthy spiritual experience. Faith on our side brings us into contact with the Divine, and puts the soul in the attitude of reception; the gift of the Holy Ghost on God's side brings the Divine into contact with us, and fills us according to our capacity. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? But, if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit;" and Paul's charge against the Galatians is that, having begun in the Spirit, they had gone on to be made perfect in the flesh. Is not this where many of us lose our capacity to follow Christ? The energies of the flesh may be never so strong and well-intentioned, but they cannot take the place of the powers of the Holy Ghost; and there is a point beyond which they cannot go in disposing us to follow Christ.

IV. BECAUSE HE WAS OUT OF SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST'S MIND. "Can two walk together except they be agreed? "Christ was meditating on the Father's will, while Simon Peter" savoured of the things that be of men." And if we are to follow Jesus we must rise into the inner circle of His fellowship, and see things from His point of view. It is not by saying, "I will follow Thee" that we succeed in following Him. It is by bringing our hearts into full harmony with His Divine will. And the first step towards accepting the Divine will is taken when we repose our full confidence in it. Jesus Christ was at this moment fulfilling in His own experience the language of the Psalm, "Lo! I come to do Thy will." Peter, on the other hand, preferred to trust to his own will. He had daydreams of material aggrandisement, and political power, so that he had no room for the fellowship of the mind of Jesus Christ. And when Jesus began to open up His own purposes to him, he shrank from them with aversion. Now, here is our lesson. You, who seek after popularity, who are wishing to be on good terms with the world, how can you follow Jesus until you are in sympathy with Him and with His aims? "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."

V. HE WAS INWARDLY CLINGING ALL THE WHILE TO A BESETTING SIN — self-assertion, or self-confidence, mingled with not a little worldly pride. We see this evil habit of soul exhibiting itself in his attempt to dissuade his Master from facing the Cross; and in his conduct at the supper table. How many of you are kept back from following Jesus now by some cherished sin? Conclusion: Perhaps some of you are asking, "Can we not go to heaven without all this?" We are not discussing the minimum qualification for heaven. What it is God only knows. We are talking of following Jesus, and that is far more to the purpose. I have no desire to solve the problem. Here is a consideration which is very profitable: How much spiritual benefit is it possible for a man to get out of his religion?

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

St. Peter felt dimly that the life of Jesus was opening into something so large that all which had gone before would be seen to have been only the vestibule and preparation for what was yet to come. And just then, when his expectation was keenest, and his love most eager, an iron curtain fell across his view. The completion was withheld. And that is what is always happening. It would be intolerable to us if we could not trace tendencies in our life. If everything stood still, or only moved round in a circle, it would be a dreary and a dreadful thing to live. But we rejoice in life because it seems to be carrying us somewhere. We bear with incompleteness, because of the completion which is prophesied and hoped for. But it is the delay or barrier that distresses us. The tendency that is not allowed to reach the fulfilment, which alone gave it value, seems a mockery. You watch your plant growing, and see its wonderful building of the woody fibre, its twining of the strong roots, its busy life blood hurrying along its veins. Some morning the deep-red flower is blazing full blown on the stem, and all is plain. The completion has justified the process. But suppose the plant to have been all the time conscious of the coming flower, and yet to have felt itself held back from blossoming, would it not be a very puzzled and impatient and unhappy little plant? Now, there are certain conditions which are to all good life just what the flower is to the plant. There are certain fine results of feeling which are the true and recognized results of the best ways of living. But when the life, conscious of the character in itself out of which these conditions ought to come, finds that it pauses on the brink of its completion and cannot blossom, then come impatient questionings and doubts.

I. LET US TAKE SOME INSTANCES DRAWN FROM DAILY LIFE. Suppose we have someone devoted to the good of others. A poor obscure woman in a sick room giving her days and nights, health and strength, to some poor invalid; or a great brilliant man out in the world neglecting his personal interests in the desire that some of the lagging causes of God may be helped forward. Now such a life has its legitimate completion. The natural flower which should crown that life is men's gratitude. Perhaps in ringing cheers, perhaps only in the silent pressure of the hand. The man who does no good expects no thanks. The selfish life feels and shows the unnaturalness if men make a mistake and lavish their gratitude upon it. It is as if men tied the glorious flower on to the top of a wooden post. And now suppose that the gratitude does not come. Is there no disappointment; no sense of a withheld completion? "What does it mean?" you ask with wonder, even with impatience. And in answer to your question there are two things to he said.

1. That such a suspension of the legitimate result, shows a condition of disorder. The natural result of your self-devotion has not come because the state of things in which you live is unnatural. That must he recognized. If you let your surprise appear, men will misunderstand you, and cry, "Oh, after all, then, you were not unselfish." But they are wrong; you did not work for thanks. When the thanks do not come it is not your loss; it is the deranged state of things that troubles you. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, did He not feel its ingratitude? But was it not the disturbed world, where such ingratitude was possible, which lay at the bottom of His grief? When your child is ungrateful to you, is it the neglect of yourself, or the demoralized home, that saddens you? It is the violation of a deep, true instinct.

2. But because any state of things is unnatural, it does not prove that there can come out of it no blessing. So it is here. The service that a man does to his fellow men does not bring down their gratitude. What then? The withholding of the legitimate completion of his service may throw him back upon the nature of the act itself, and compel him to find his satisfaction there. That has been the support of many a despised reformer and misunderstood friend. The essence of any act is more and finer than its consequences are. Because Christ was "despised and rejected of men," we are able to see more clearly how truly He was His Father's "well-beloved Son."


1. Look, e.g., at the connection of duty and happiness. Happiness is the natural flower of duty. The good man ought to be a thoroughly bright and joyous man. To disbelieve this would be to bow down at the footstool of a devil or a chance, and which of these would be the most terrible master who can say? With this conviction strong in us we come to some good man's life, and that life is all gloomy. Duty is done day after day, but done in utter dreariness; good without gladness, shocking and perplexing our deep certainty that to be good and to be glad belong together. To such we want to bring the two before-mentioned considerations. To recognize that it is unnatural, and so to struggle against it, and yet, while it must last, to get what blessing we can out of it, by letting it drive us down deeper, for our joy and comfort, into the very act and fact of doing righteousness. The plant ought to come to flower, but if it fails it is still a plant. The duty should open into joy, but it may still be duty; still hold the duty. Do righteousness and forget happiness, and so it is most likely that happiness will come. This will help a man to be hopeful without impatience, and patient without despair.

2. But take another case. There are promises in the Bible which declare that dedication to God shall bring communion with God. "Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you." And yet sometimes the man does give himself to God, and the promise seems to fail; and the man given to God trembles when he hears other men talk of the joy of Divine communion, because no such ever comes to him. Once more, to such a soul there are the same two messages to bring. Never, no matter how long such exclusion from the presence of God may seem to last, make up your mind to it that it is right; never cease to expect that you will be admitted to all the joy of your Father's felt love. And seek even more deeply the satisfaction which is in your consecration itself; and that you may find it, consecrate yourself more and more completely. There are two great anxieties which I do feel for such souls. One is, lest you should give up expecting that privilege of communion which is certainly yours in possibility, and must certainly be yours some day in possession. The other is, lest, since the consecration has not brought you the communion, you should think that the consecration is unreal, and so lose the power to be blessed by it, and the impulse to increase it. Multitudes of saints would tell you how in their hindered lives God kept them true to such experience as they had attained; and so it was that, by and by, either before or after the great enlightenment of death, the hindrance melted away, and they now "follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth."

3. Among Christ's promises there is none that is dearer to one class of minds than this. "If any man wills to do My will, he shall know of the doctrine," etc. Such souls have not found that the thousand curious questions of theology were answered, and all the mystery rolled away out of the sky of truth. Christ did not promise that. But they have found what He did promise: that, coming near to Him in obedience, they have been made sure of the true divinity that was in Him and in the teachings that He gave. Everywhere the flower of obedience is intelligence. Obey a man with cordial loyalty and you will understand him. And now, are there any of us from whom that completion seems to have been withheld? They must be sure, first, that they are right: that they have not really come to an essential faith that the doctrine of Jesus is divine. They must be sure, again, that their will to serve Christ has been indeed true. And what then? Sure of all this, still the darkness and the doubts remain. Then they must come to the two principles; they must say," This is unnatural. I will not rest until my service of Christ completes itself in the knowledge of Christ; and yet all the time while I am waiting I will find joy in the service of Him, however dimly I may apprehend Him."

(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The most natural explanation of Christ's words to one who knew Him as intimately as Peter did was that, while shrinking from no danger Himself, He would not involve His followers in that danger. But Christ's meaning was that the time had not come for Peter to die. Had Peter known this he would still have desired thus to follow Christ: but in reality he was not ready. Desiring to die and readiness for death are two different things.


1. His knowledge of Christ and of Divine things needed to be increased. He knew a great deal, being Divinely taught, but he had yet to learn that Christ must suffer and enter into His glory. Our Lord had indeed spoken of this, but nothing short of the event itself could teach the full truth. There was the teaching, too, supplied by the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. Compare what Peter knew in later years with what he knew now, and you see the reason for our Lord's words. Here, then, is one of the reasons why God keeps us here. We are to learn Christ as He can be learnt nowhere else, by experiencing His wonderful love and almighty grace. What will not men endure to become acquainted with man or nature? Shall we complain then because we are called for a season to endure hardships that we may know Christ.

2. His character needed chastening and strengthening. He was weaker morally than he thought himself. "I will lay down," etc. "Wilt thou?" etc. Life was a furnace by means of which the baser parts of his character were re moved, and the truer and nobler made manifest. Peter went to heaven a better man than he would have done had he followed Christ now. There is no explanation of human life satisfactory but this. Once accepted the axe is laid at the root of all impatience and disgust.


1. Indeed the work done in Peter was with a view to that to be done by him. To regard our knowledge and experience only as a fitting us for heaven is only selfishness. Christ taught that both were for the sake of others. They could only follow Him as they gave themselves for their fellow men, as He did. Doubtless Peter soon understood this, and acquiesced in the "afterwards."

2. Our work here is a preparation for the life hereafter. That will be no state of inactivity, and by serving Christ here in our inward and outward life we are to learn how to work for Him in heaven.

(H. S. Toms.)

1. Peter meant what he said, but he did not measure the meaning of his words. Sometimes our words are bigger than we are, and all exaggeration is weakness. Peter spoke out of his passion, not out of his reason, and the only passion that endures is reason-on-fire. If he had said less, he would have done more. The strongest man has only so much energy, and if that be spent in wild speech, it will not be spent in well-directed actions. Hear a man talk much about the poor, and the probability is he is not going to do much for the poor. How to spend our limited amount of energy to the greatest effect ought to be the inquiry of every earnest man. We want more Bible reading, deeper devotion — the strengthening of our inner life — and then the expenditure will be with ease, and be a great beneficence.

2. Thunder frightens people; the light is welcome to all, and how quietly it comes. "Let your light so shine," etc. I quote this passage because there is a danger lest this doctrine of action, as opposed to speech, should be perverted. Persons excuse themselves from saying anything about their religion, and say that they seek the shade. Don't believe them. The shade is never difficult to find. To talk about humility is not to practice it. Action and speech must go together. Love the shade, certainly; but remember that God made the light, and that everything does not grow in the shade, and don't undervalue the light. Are you sure that you are honest in professing to love the shade? Is it not when someone asks you to do something that you don't like that you become so modest? Christ wants speech and action, open conduct, that everybody, if needful, can see and estimate. There are times when the shadow will be right welcome; but let the light make the shade.

3. Peter's boast is one of the expressions which outdo themselves by their own bigness. Beware of outdoing yourself by your own words. There are men whose geese are all swans, and their swans eagles. Christ demands that our words be weighed and directed to His Cross and service. He asks no man to lay down his life, in this tragical sense, on a manufactured occasion — that will come by and by as a practical necessity. There are many who are ready to do some tremendous thing for us when we don't want anything tremendous done. A dying master told his old slave that he had arranged in his will that he (the slave) was to be buried in the family grave: to which he made reply, "Ten dollars would suit Cato better." We cannot live on tragedies — give us bread and water. "My mother, sir!" says the wild youth, "I would walk fifty miles on burning metal for her!" But his mother wants no filial piety so tragical as that; but she would like him home a little earlier at night. Don't say that you would lay down your life for her — lay down your glass, your pipe, your cards; lay down something as an instalment. "My pastor! sir, I would die for him!" No, no; he wants nothing so tragic, all he wants is for you to take a sitting, come in time, and pay your subscription occasionally.

4. Peter's boast was a broken sentence. Christ only could complete it, and did. "I have power to take it again." To serve friends after death, as well as in it, was reserved for Him alone. Therefore economize life. You can serve others better by living than by dying — even Christ. "I beseech you therefore...present your bodies a living sacrifice." And if we live for Christ we shall certainly die for Him.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

A great commander was engaged in besieging a strongly fortified city. After a while he concentrated his forces at a point where the fortifications were stronger than at any other, and at two p.m., under a bright sun and a clear sky, ordered an assault. When expostulated with by an under officer, the commander replied: "At this point such a general is in command. At this hour of the day he is invariably accustomed to retire for a long sleep. When informed of our approach he will deny the fact, and send a messenger for information. Before the messenger returns we shall gain possession of the fortress." The facts turned out exactly as predicted. "Yonder weak point," said the commander, "is held by General There is no use in attempting to surprise him; he is never for a moment off his guard."

(A. Mahan, D. D.).

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