John 13: 36-38 We Don’t Know Ourselves

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterwards.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow till you have denied me three times.

We Don’t Know Ourselves

Over promising comes from a delusion of self.  Either we think that we can do it all or we think that we are better at the core than we are.  We desperately want to show that we are worthy of the affections of those whom we love.  We desperately want to show ourselves worthy of the acceptance that we receive.

Peter is accepted by Jesus, but Peter does not truly know his own weakness and failing.  He does not know that, although he desires to follow Jesus wherever Jesus will go, he lacks the consistency in his spirit.  Maybe Peter would protest to Jesus, “But that’s not me.  I’ll show you!”  However, his actions proved that Jesus’ assessment of him was true.

Many of us defend ourselves.  We say, “You don’t know me!” or “I will show you!”  However, maybe if we first asked, “What insights do people have into my character that I do not?”  The Johari window is a simple picture of how we have at least four areas concerning self-knowledge.

In one area of our lives are the things we know that are known to others.  They are open.  In another area we keep knowledge about ourselves hidden.  Some people know things about us that we do not know.  These are our blind-spots.  Then there are the things unknown to both ourselves and others.  People who resist growth and resist input from others do not know their blind spots.  Peter had a blind spot that Jesus knew and he failed because he was unwilling to listen.

The ‘examen’ prayer causes us to ask God to reveal our blind and hidden spots.  There are in each of us areas that God wishes to touch.  We can resist or ask God to examine our hearts and then use others to show us areas in which we must still grow.


Examine my heart and show me where I must grow.  Let me be trusting of others and open to their wisdom if they are sent by you to reveal in me the condition of my heart.  I don’t want to do this because I am afraid of the pain.  Others in the past have abused my trust and attacked me because of their own poverty of spirit.  Please be gentle with me, but do not let me stay the way I am.


  1. Why does Peter ask where Jesus is going?
  2. Why does Jesus tell Peter he will deny him?
  3. Why did the early church need to be reminded of Peter’s empty promise?
  4. In what ways have people questioned your character or commitment?
  5. How have you responded?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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19 Responses to John 13: 36-38 We Don’t Know Ourselves

  1. Ed says:

    1. Because he want’s to be with Jesus.
    2. Jesus is lead by the God so he knows what is going to happen, he even knows that Peter was going to ask the question.
    3. We all fall short
    4. Mostly at work some at Church. When it happens hit it head on with the Spirit guiding the situation if possible.
    5. Planting seeds when ever possible.

  2. sjcavitt says:

    1) Peter wants to follow Jesus and to be with Him.
    2) Jesus is exposing a weakness of Peter, which Peter does not see.
    3) The early church was blind to their areas of weakness.
    4) My parents and my siblings are usually the people to call out the weaknesses in my life, because we are family, and they are honest with me.
    5) I usually try to defend myself, because having my character questioned is never easy or enjoyable. But because I know that they love me, I know I can trust their advice in my life and work on what needs changing in my life.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Peter wants to know where Jesus is going so he can go with. By telling Peter what is going to happen in the future, Jesus is showing Peter one of his weaknesses. We can all be blind to our weaknesses or not want to admit to them. I have a good friend who calls me out on my weaknesses by asking me questions. She leads me to realize my own struggles. My initial response is to defend myself but then I come to see that she is speaking truth in love.

  4. Rachel says:

    Peter does not understand that Jesus is going to the cross. Jesus knows Peter even better than Peter knows himself. I find such comfort in this! What a relief to know that Christ knows me better than I know myself. He understands the thoughts and desires of my heart even when I deceive myself. I had a teacher in high school that questioned my character, attacking everything I held to be true. While her words were harsh and uncalled for, they caused me to truly reflect and ask the Lord what was true of me. His image is being formed.

  5. karas says:

    Peter doesn’t understand what Jesus is doing. Jesus tells him to remind of his lack of self-knowledge and for future learning, I think. We also need to be reminded of this. I think more often people over-emphasize my character or commitment, and I need to remind them that I am not any better than the next guy.

  6. Lacy says:

    1. Peter does not want to be separated from him.
    2. Jesus is showing Peter that he cannot earn Christ’s– or God’s– approval; he is showing him that he needs a savior.
    3. The early church, too, needed to be reminded that they could never be worthy, but that they were fully loved and accepted.

  7. Beth Coale says:

    This reminds me of something I heard – I don’t even remember where it was but they said, “You’re willing to DIE for Christ” (we talk a big game about doing big, dangerous things for Christ) “but are you willing to LIVE for Him?” (this includes the daily things we do in life to honor Christ – the mundane, difficult but not adventurous & not with direct results kind of things – and it’s these little, unexciting things that I think make up a big part of what it means to die daily for Christ. I think it’s also in these things that your character and commitment will be truly shown.)

  8. Jenna says:

    1. Jesus had just mentioned that He was going away, but the disciples hadn’t realized He was talking about His death. Peter wanted to be with Jesus, so he asked where He was going.
    2. Peter is making a boast that he won’t back up, and Jesus knows it. Maybe Jesus told Peter so that when Peter did deny Him, he would have some assurance of Jesus’ love – Jesus had washed his feet, even though He knew he would betray Him.
    3. It’s like what Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We are no better than Peter; we will fail Jesus over and over, but He will always forgive us.
    4. Really, more that people, I am my own worst critic; there have been times when I haven’t followed through on something I said I would do or I’ve failed someone, even if they didn’t notice.
    5. I tend to beat myself up about it (I have a definite perfectionist streak!). Luckily, I have many godly adults speaking into my life who are quick to call me out when I’m being too hard on myself or forgetting about grace.

  9. Dominic Shortridge says:

    Why does Peter ask where Jesus is going?
    Why does Jesus tell Peter he will deny him?
    Why did the early church need to be reminded of Peter’s empty promise?
    In what ways have people questioned your character or commitment?
    How have you responded?
    1. Peter wants to know where Jesus is going so he can go with him, most likely for fear of being left, not to support Jesus
    2. Jesus tells Peter he is going to deny him because Peter has a self conceit issue, and thinks he is greater than he is.
    3. The Church needed this reminder because following Jesus costs a lot. A whole lot more than we can budget to give up. Unfortunately, examples of those who “fail” speak louder than those who succeed.
    4. I haven’t had any question my commitment,except when I’m late to things. I have had people disagree with me if I bring up a point of contention about something.
    5.I always try to keep my composure when people disagree with me. Explaining my point of view thoroughly and hearing their disagreement is also important to me.

  10. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. Why does Peter ask where Jesus is going?
    I am sure he wants to be with his Lord.
    2. Why does Jesus tell Peter he will deny him?
    He is questioning whether he would really die for him.
    3. Why did the early church need to be reminded of Peter’s empty promise?
    It reminds us to check our words against our actions. We can’t just say we would die with Christ, we must actually die with him and (coincidentally) live that way!
    4. In what ways have people questioned your character or commitment?
    I have had friends call me out on being too harsh. They remind me of what true brotherly love in Christ means.
    5. How have you responded?
    At first, again, a little harshly, brushing it off. Now I look back and totally agree. I hope to keep my desire for truth, but also to be tender in love.

  11. As much as I want to deny it, this reminds me of recent discussions that I’ve had with my husband. In my sinfulness I blatantly deny my flaws and mistakes, feeling the need to be defensive and quite harsh in order to not be proven “guilty” or wrong. I lose sight of the love in which these words are based – a desire to see me grow more in the likeness of Christ.
    The more I think about my reactions, the moreu I wish to go back and change things. Yet I fail to embrace the new chances and often turn to my same tendencies. More than ever, I feel compelled to examine my heart specifically in this area. I pray that God would teach me to tame my tongue, be humble, realize and confess my mistakes, and glean from the words of those around me.

  12. Janice says:

    Peter wants to follow Jesus. Jesus foretells that Peter will deny Him. The early church needed encouragement to continue following faithfully after Christ in the midst of persecution. People have questioned my commitment to different groups when I fail to make it to every event. I had to say no to some commitments due to time constraints and my inability to wholeheartedly commit to them.

  13. Chelsea P. says:

    I just tried to post a comment and it got deleted so I am not going to make it as long this time. Basically, by brothers-who are not believers- test the genuineness of my faith by asking me to do things or saying I shouldnt be doing something because I am a Christian. It is almost as if they are making fun of me. I often want to respond angrily. But I pray the Lord continues to give me grace to respond gently

  14. ashleypdye says:

    1. Peter wants to follow Jesus.
    2. Jesus knows that Peter will deny him, and let’s Peter know that his affections for him have not wavered.
    3. The early church (along with us) needs to be reminded of Peter’s empty promises because I assume in their passion and zealousness, they didn’t realize how weak they were.
    4. I can remember some hard conversations with my dad over the years, where he called to light a point in my character that needs to change. These have been tough conversations, but I am thankful for them and for a dad who is willing to go through those things with me.
    5. I initially respond with discouragement.

  15. Dylan says:

    1. Peter wants to be with Jesus and he also thinks Jesus needs his protection.
    2. Jesus gives this harsh truth to show that he knows Peter better than Peter knows himself. We have no power apart from God.
    3. Peter’s empty promise is like an unworthy sacrifice. It is easy for the church to fall into works salvation, idolatry and thinking we have anything to offer God besides our broken souls. This could have been especially true in the early church because they were coming out of thousands of years of Judaism.
    4. On a small scale, I am late to appointments more often than I should be. On a large scale, I have put off perusing a career for the past 4 years. In both cases, I have trouble defending myself so I usually give up and admit my faults.
    5. “I need to get that straightened out soon!!”

  16. zacbodine says:

    Peter is the archetype for what we are. He is the guy who runs blindly trying to be the best Christian or the most biblical of all the people around him. As we read his story we see how horribly he fails throughout his journey. We laugh at his ignorance and turn around and do the exact same thing. We think we will respond differently, but we won’t. That’s the beauty of it! Christ does not love us or save us by how religious, pious, or devoted we are. He does perfect us to be highly devoted and seek to follow him everywhere, but even that does not come from our power, will, or intention. It is amazing to see Jesus remind us how he knows us and we do not know who we are. That’s why I am glad I am his. He tells me I am his and that’s all I need to know. Now, I must live it.

  17. Amy McCashen says:

    1. Because Peter is curious and wants to go with him.
    2. Because Jesus wants Peter to truly count the cost of what it means to follow Him. He learns that sometimes promises are empty and when it really gets down to it, some will not follow through.
    3. Because they needed strength and assurance to die for their faith.
    4. Sometimes people have questioned my motives or emotions because I have been told that my facial expressions look fake or are too exaggerated and are not genuine.
    5. I never think about my facial expressions or try to make them look a certain why to be deceitful.

  18. nataliaria says:

    Peter asks when Jesus is going because he has misunderstood, or failed to grasp, Jesus’ previous statements about leaving the disciples and returning to His Father. I suppose Peter might here be thinking that Jesus is going to a physical place, and thus Peter believes that the only obstacles to following Christ are themselves physical as well.

    In the moment, I imagine that Peter might have been a little hurt by Jesus’ statement that Peter will deny Him, but in hindsight, perhaps Peter was able to find solace in Jesus’ saddening prediction; Jesus knew Peter’s heart, and yet still loved him, even though Peter’s actions no doubt hurt Jesus’ heart.

    I believe the early church needed to be reminded to Peter’s promise, and the outcome of Peter’s interactions on the night of the crucifixion, in order that they might always have in mind the unknown aspect of a believers’ life on earth, and the fickle and fearful nature of our own hearts.

    I think times in which people have questioned my character generally revolve around misunderstandings occurring when nonbelievers or even believers with other worldviews or “lenses” misinterpret my interest or concern for them. Internally, my first reaction is usually defensiveness, and an anger that desires to justify myself before them and prove to them that I am truly doing and feeling what I claim to be doing and feeling.

  19. Austin Knight says:

    Why does Peter ask where Jesus is going? Peter wants to be with Jesus
    Why does Jesus tell Peter he will deny him? He does it to show Peter that even when it comes to something so big, He knows us better than we even know ourselves.
    Why did the early church need to be reminded of Peter’s empty promise? They needed to realize that even someone so close to Jesus would deny Him when the going gets rough. This served to show the church that we have no power apart from God.
    In what ways have people questioned your character or commitment? My parents have challenged my character throughout my childhood, and they have been building me up for the past 19 years. They have been honest with me and that has helped me grow in the areas with which I am weak.
    How have you responded? Not always with thankfulness, but as I look back, I can see that everything they said was intended to help me improve my character.

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