DO YOU find it easy to serve Jehovah?— The Great Teacher didn’t say it would be easy to do. The night before Jesus was killed, he told his apostles: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
Peter bragged that he would never leave Jesus, but Jesus said that Peter would deny knowing him three times that very night. And this is exactly what Peter did! (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75) How could such a thing happen?— It happened because Peter became afraid, and so did the other apostles.
Do you know why the apostles became afraid?— They had failed to do something very important. Learning about this can help us to serve Jehovah, no matter what anyone may say or do to us. To begin with, though, we need to review what happened on the last night that Jesus spent with his apostles.
First, they celebrate the Passover together. This was a special meal held every year to remind God’s people of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Then Jesus introduces another special meal with them. We will discuss it in a later chapter and explain how that meal helps us to remember Jesus. After that meal and after words of encouragement to his apostles, Jesus takes them out to the garden of Gethsemane. This is a favorite place they have often visited.
Jesus goes off by himself in the garden to pray. He also tells Peter, James, and John to pray. But they fall asleep. Three times Jesus goes away by himself to pray, and three times he comes back to find Peter and the others sleeping! (Matthew 26:36-47) Do you know why they should have stayed awake to pray?— Let’s talk about this.
Judas Iscariot was at the Passover with Jesus and the other apostles earlier that evening. As you may remember, Judas had become a thief. Now he becomes a traitor. He knows about the place in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has often met together with his apostles. So Judas brings soldiers there to arrest Jesus. When they arrive, Jesus asks them: “Whom are you looking for?”
The soldiers reply: “Jesus.” Jesus is not afraid, so he answers: “I am he.” The soldiers are so surprised by Jesus’ courage that they draw back and fall to the ground. Then Jesus says: ‘If it is I you are looking for, let my apostles go.’
When the soldiers grab Jesus and tie him up, the apostles become afraid and run away. But Peter and John want to find out what happens, so they follow at a distance. Eventually, Jesus is brought to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest. Since John is known to the high priest, the gatekeeper lets him and Peter into the courtyard.
The priests have already come together at the home of Caiaphas to have a trial. They want to have Jesus put to death. So they bring in witnesses who tell lies about him. The people hit Jesus with their fists and slap him. While all of this is happening, Peter is nearby.
A servant girl, the gatekeeper who let Peter and John in, notices Peter. “You, too, were with Jesus!” she says. But Peter denies even knowing Jesus. After a while another girl recognizes Peter and says to those standing by: “This man was with Jesus.” Again Peter denies knowing him. Sometime later a group of people see Peter and say to him: “Certainly you also are one of them.” For the third time Peter denies it, saying: “I do not know the man!” Peter even swears that he is telling the truth, and Jesus turns and looks at him.
Do you know why Peter lied?— Yes, because he was afraid. But why was he afraid? What had he failed to do to build up his courage? Think about it. What had Jesus done to gain courage?— He had prayed to God, and God helped him to have courage. And remember, Jesus had told Peter three times to pray and to stay awake and to keep on the watch. But what had happened?—
Each time, Peter fell asleep. He did not pray, and he did not keep watching. So he was taken by surprise when Jesus was arrested. Later at the trial, when they hit Jesus and made plans to have him put to death, Peter got scared. Yet, just a few hours before, what did Jesus tell his apostles to expect?— Jesus told them that just as the world had hated him, it would hate them too.
Now let’s think of something that could happen to us that is like what happened to Peter. Suppose you are in a classroom when others start to say bad things about people who do not salute the flag or who do not celebrate Christmas. Then what if someone turns to you and asks: “Is it true you don’t salute the flag?” Or others say: “We hear you don’t even celebrate Christmas!” Would you be afraid to tell the truth?— Would you be tempted to lie, as Peter did?—
Afterward, Peter was very sorry that he had denied knowing Jesus. When he realized what he had done, he went outside and cried. Yes, he returned to Jesus. (Luke 22:32) Now think about it. What can help us not to become so afraid that we say something like Peter did?— Remember, Peter had failed to pray and to keep on the watch. So, what would you say that we need to do to be a follower of the Great Teacher?—
We certainly need to pray to Jehovah for help. When Jesus prayed, do you know what God did for him?— He sent an angel to strengthen him. (Luke 22:43) Can God’s angels help us?— The Bible says: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.” (Psalm 34:7) But to receive God’s help, we need to do more than pray for it. Do you know what else we need to do?— Jesus told his followers to stay awake and keep on the watch. How would you say we can do that?—
We need to listen carefully to what is said at our Christian meetings and to pay attention to what we read from the Bible. But we also need to pray to Jehovah regularly and to ask him to help us serve him. If we do, we will receive help to overcome our fears. Then we will be glad when we have an opportunity to tell others about the Great Teacher and his Father.
These scriptures can help us never to let fear of other people hold us back from doing what is right: Proverbs 29:25; Jeremiah 26:12-15, 20-24; and John 12:42, 43.