When we left off yesterday, we had noted that Peter (like so many of us) was always proclaiming his loyalty, but he was not always as willing to practice it. We are very much like him, aren't we?
"You're going to die, Lord?" he asks. "Well, if you die, I'll die with you."
It's easy to say the words "I would die for the Lord." But when they are getting the nails to drive through your hands and feet, it becomes a much different situation, doesn't it?
"Are you really willing to die for Me, Peter? Let me show you how loyal you really are. Before morning comes, you will deny Me not once, but three different times."
"Going to be loyal to me?" the Lord asks. "Well, watch and pray with me, Peter," as they walk through the entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane. "I'm going just a little further into the Garden to pray. I want you to watch and pray, OK?" But Peter, along with the rest of the disciples (and we can insert our own names, too) quickly falls asleep.
"Are you truly loyal to Me, Peter? How closely will you follow Me?" In Luke's gospel, when the soldiers arrested Jesus and took Him out of the Garden, Peter followed at a distance. Now, be honest, and imagine if you were there. Do you think you might have followed at a distance, too?
Well, when we follow at a distance, instead of following closely, we end up sometimes in the wrong crowd. That's what happened to Peter. He ended up in the courtyard of the High Priest's place, just outside of where Jesus was being put on trial.
John was in the courtroom with Jesus, but Peter was outside, with all of those who had a part in arresting Jesus. One of them asked him, "You're one of the Nazarene's followers, aren't you?"
"Not me," said Peter.
Twice more they asked him. All three times he denied Jesus -- the final time he said he didn't even know him! Peter found out the hard way that it was a lot easier to proclaim his loyalty with words, than to practice his loyalty.
We can all identify with the little boy at the beach who struggles valiantly to step into his dad's footprints in the sand. He keeps trying, even though dad's stride is longer, and his feet are bigger! Are we walking in the footsteps of Jesus? Are we trying, as He did, to live our lives in such a way that we bring glory to God? Are we living our lives showing that we love one another? Are our lives testimonials to the fact that we are unwaveringly loyal to our Lord?
You see, it doesn't matter so much if we wear a cross around our neck, though that is a lovely way to silently show our faith. It doesn't matter how many bumper stickers are on our car, though that is sometimes a fun way to show our world view and our faith. The most important thing is our commitment to follow Jesus. So often we fall down in this, just as Peter did.
Remember what happened that night? Right after the third time that Peter denied Jesus, the rooster crowed, just as Jesus said. What do you think was in his mind when Peter heard it? That's tough. He was confronted with the fact -- simple, unvarnished, and undeniably true -- that he had denied Jesus again and again . . . and he ran out, weeping.
Sometimes we react that way, too. We've fallen short. We haven't done as we should, and we realize it. We have been open and bold and fearless in some ways, and then we suddenly see ourselves as we really are. Well, this should not be a shocker. I know, right? Remember what the Bible tells us? "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." No one is perfect, no not one -- except my Savior, Jesus.
But Peter didn't stop there. That's not the end of his story. He became a leader in the church as it grew in Jerusalem and spread around the world. If you recall, Jesus gave Peter another chance. He said to him, and He says to us, "Just because you fell short doesn't mean I have stopped loving you. You can start all over. You can begin again."
We can still be used of God. Maybe we can follow closer this time. Maybe we can love others a little more. Maybe we can allow more of His glory to shine in our lives. If we are willing to try again, He is willing, too!
That's what Jesus is saying as we finish our scorecards this week. "I'm willing if you are." He isn't going to force His way into our lives. He will put up stop signs and danger signs on the road of life in order to warn us, and to guide us to him. But it is our choice, our decision.
So He invites us.
And then He waits.
And we must consider. Do we want to be His disciples? Are we aware of the marks of discipleship? Are we displaying them in our lives?
How did you score on this test?