Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
Peter’s denial of Christ was no doubt a heart-breaking, soul-crushing experience for him. He had argued with the Lord about it, when Jesus had predicted the denial.
There is no doubt that even after Christ’s resurrection that Peter’s former denial must have hung over his head like a dark cloud. It certainly was a healing thing for Jesus to speak to Peter about love and about feeding His sheep. Jesus still wanted to use Peter! And Jesus knew everything about Peter! Though Peter had earlier contradicted Jesus’ prediction about impending denial, he does not dare to consider that he knows himself now. So he says to Christ, “Lord, you know all things.”
Peter’s self-confidence and pride are demolished. He’s humbled to a place of utter dependance on Jesus.
But then Jesus predicts Peter’s future again. But this time it’s not about denial. In verse 18 Jesus predicts not only Peter’s martyrdom, but that it would be a death that glorifies God. We know from the histories of the early church in the Roman empire that Christians who had been arrested for their faith in Christ were usually given the chance to denounce their faith and escape the death sentence. Actually, it was a rather large conflict what to do with the many Christians who under the threat of death had renounced their faith in Christ. Many of these believers afterward wanted to return to the church.
Peter had already proven he was much more of a coward than he had ever dreamed. Would he fall again? Could he be trusted again? Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s martyrdom answered these fears! Peter would not deny the Lord again.
Can you imagine how liberating this would have been to Peter? The same Jesus who knew for sure that Peter would initially deny the Lord, also knew that Peter would stand firm until his God glorifying death as an old man.
This prophecy was no doubt a comfort to Peter, when in the early days of the church he was imprisoned on several occasions!
The application for us is that Jesus is just as able to bring each of us through the trials of our faith. He “ever lives to make intercession for the saints.” His prayers carried Peter through his greatest failures and would secure his greatest victories!
Christ’s prayers are equally powerful and effective on our behalf. The work He has begun in us He will be faithful to complete.
Just like Peter, those of us who have truly come to Jesus will persevere to the end. And not because salvation depends upon our faith. But because we are carried along by the strength and faith of Another. I think we should face the future without fear. This is a liberating truth. Think about it.