2005-09-01 - Proud Words & Bitter Tears
The Cross Series, Part 23
Originally Published 1998-02-12
Luke 22:61-62 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times." 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. (NAS)
In our western, performance oriented culture we measure a man by his ability to produce and to meet his goals and promises. We have here a record of two promises that are at odds with each other. Peter, in the face of Jesus worrisome pronouncement that the enemy had desired to sift his as wheat, declared that he would die with Jesus if need be. Jesus countered with an even more grave statement. Jesus warned His confused friend that he would actually deny his Lord three times before the rooster crowed. It has just happened.
I'm sure Jesus warned Peter with all the love his heart could muster and Peter could understand. The fisherman's mind must have raced with what Jesus could possibly mean. The last thing he could conceive of would be denying the Christ, whom he had first identified at Caesarea Philippi. Did his mind race back to a few days or a week later when Jesus had rebuked Peter?
Matt 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (NAS)
That was in response to another proud statement of Peter saying that Jesus would not go to the cross. Peter could not conceive of Jesus going to the cross, but that was the eternal plan. Peter was still looking for the political Messiah.
There are a few things to take courage in here. As powerful as these two rebukes are, Jesus never gave up on Peter. Peter was never too dumb or too slow to be a disciple. When that one sin that gets you every time, anger in traffic, coveting your neighbor's new [fill in the blank], lustful thoughts toward that co-worker who is always so nice to you, etc. The God I know is a God of second, and third chances. King David had an adulterous relationship with Uriah's wife and then had Uriah murdered to cover it up. One thing David forgot was that God wouldn't be fooled. And still, David was described as a man after God's own heart. One reason the Bible leaves things like that in the text is to show us that we are not alone in our failings. If David could be a man after God's heart after all that, God obviously never gave up on David. He will not give up on you or me either.
Even when Peter didn't understand, God was still in control. Did these rebukes hurt? Yes, they certainly must have cut deeply. God must sometimes break us and crush our pride before He can begin some major reworking in our hearts. Peter will be restored to a place of leadership in the fledgling church. He will eventually be martyred for Jesus, but tradition before Caesar himself. Did Peter eventually understand Jesus rebuke. Yes, but the answer was probably not relieved quickly or all at once. But over a period of years, Peter would see the need to deal with his pride the way Jesus did. Do we always get the answer? No, not on this side of the veil. Sometimes we just have to go forward in faith, trusting that God knows us and has our best interests at heart.
Are you in a dark valley of confusion today? Are you struggling with some temptation that seems to rear it's ugly head at will? Has God left you? Know that Jesus promised never to do that. He left the 99 other sheep to find you. You have not failed Him one too many times. He loves you, and He is always in control.
Matt 18:12-14 "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 "And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 "Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (NAS)
Peter's response to weep, literally to convulse or sob uncontrollably, shows his broken heart over his failure. He did not yet know Jesus would restore him. He had seen the glimmers of glory Jesus would show them, and he felt he had thrown it all away. But we know Jesus did restore Peter, even after he swore and cursed to deflect his association with Jesus. What did Peter see in Jesus eyes? Condemnation and "I told you so." Never. Compassion and sorrow at Peter's failure? Perhaps, and maybe a few other things too. These are the things that wait for you, if you will let Jesus restore you. There may be some tears to shed. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself, and He loves you anyway.
Lord Jesus, there are times when we know that we can only have the strength to take the next breath from you. These are the times You crush us and stretch us beyond ourselves, and you teach us more of our dependence and more of You love, grace and mercy. Give us the faith and the courage in those times to trust You and know that You are in control. Amen.
Grace & Peace,