My daily commute to work is about twenty minutes. Most mornings are uneventful, with the exception of trying to observe the speed limit for a large stretch that is judiciously patrolled. I come in to work early for two reasons, so that I can focus with little interruption and so that I can leave early to pick up my child. Most mornings, I use my drive time to listen to Scripture. That may sound lazy to some, but to me, it’s what works. Recently, I was listening to Peter’s repeated denial of Christ.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:66-72)
Peter didn’t say, “Awe shucks.” He didn’t say, “Well, I’ll do better next time.” He wept. Matthew and Luke both say that he “wept bitterly.” He wept bitterly because hours before, he had pledged to die with Jesus if that is what the situation called for.
Peter had been following Jesus since the beginning of His ministry. He had a front row seat to the stories that we teach our children. Peter saw with his own eyes those who were healed, the blind who were given sight, and even the dead who came back to life. Yet, the thought of his own death was enough to make him fall away.
I find far too often in my life I am most like Peter. I mean well, but I often end up stumbling over myself. I am as guilty of Matthew 16:23 as anyone. I run headlong into any project. I try to outrun God. I try to prove my faith by pouring myself into whatever is asked of me.
If anything, the message of the Gospel is that in our own power we are nothing. The problem with Peter was that his motives were misguided. He made the mistake of thinking that he had a larger part in Christ’s story than a servant. After Christ’s death and resurrection, he was to carry the church forward, but before that, he was a mere disciple.
Peter was ashamed of his actions, and rightly so. In fact, there is no definitive proof that Peter was even at the crucifixion of Christ. His shame overwhelmed him. However, on the first Easter morning, he and John had a foot race to get to Christ’s tomb. His love was so great, that Peter had to know if Jesus was alive. When John stopped at the mouth of the tomb, Peter walked right in. Peter saw for himself that Christ had risen.
It’s a good thing that Christ isn’t like me for I would have dropped Peter like a rock. Thank God that Jesus is not like me! His words weren’t of condemnation, but of welcome: “Peace be with you (Luke 24:36b).”
As the body of Christ, we are guaranteed two things: 1) in this world, we will have trouble, 2) take heart, for Jesus has overcome the fallen, lost, and dying world. However, as Christians, we possess the one thing that can turn death to life, return sight to the blind, and make the lame leap for joy. We have been given the Spirit of God to continue Peter’s work of “feeding Christ’s lambs (John 21:15).”
What better way can we show appreciation to Christ for the sacrifice that He made for us than to bring the life-giving message to someone who sits in darkness. The message hasn’t changed in over two thousand years. Christ came, lived, died, and rose again. He did that so that we could live eternally. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)” How can one turn down something so monumental, and so free?
When someone points an accusing finger and says, “You were with the Nazarene” you can humbly reply “Yes I am with the Nazarene, and because of Him, I am truly alive. You can be too. Would you like to know how?”