Thursday, February 19, 2015
When we hit "rock bottom," conclusion
Yesterday we left Peter and John running for their lives along with the other disciples. It's all they can think of to do, after Jesus rebuked Peter and the officials arrested Jesus. But these two slow down, and look back toward Jesus and the soldiers. They look at one another and then turn around, and follow the crowd into Jerusalem. Many translators and scholars say that John was the other disciple with Peter, because some of them conclude that John was some kind of relative of the high priest's family, and was known by the gatekeepers at the courtyard. That is why he is let into the courtyard, and Peter is asked to wait outside the door. John comes back, talks with the girl watching the gate, and convinces her to let Peter in.
Get ready. Here is the first denial.
This girl asks him in a friendly, non-threatening way, "You're not one of His disciples, are you?" She is just asking so she can let him through the gate. It's just so easy to smile at her diligence and watchfulness and say no. So this first temptation to lie is very subtle -- what else can he say if he wants to get in? He can't do any good for Jesus if he is left standing outside, can he? But now that he has portrayed himself as an innocent bystander, it's going to be difficult to change things next time....
There's Peter, trying to be un-noticeable in the ungodly crowd. He tries to blend in; he stands by the fire like everyone else, and probably makes idle conversation, though his heart is longing to be with the Master. He is trying to fit in with the world, but he's not part of it. Many people try that, and it's a painful place to be. The world knows that you are different from them, but then again, you've denied Him. Peter's heart must have been miserable as he stood by the fire.
Uh-oh, now someone else has taken a good look at Peter, "You're not one of His disciples, are you?" Peter denies emphatically that he is one of them. Oh, he's slipping further and further down that slope. Ever noticed that the further you go with a lie, the harder it is to turn around and fix things? Oy. Finally, here comes a relative of Malchus -- he probably took a long, hard look at the person that cut off Malchus' ear. "Didn't I see you in the garden?" Try to imagine what is going through Peter's mind . . . this guy is a relative of Malchus. What is he going to do if he finds out that I'm that one who attacked Malchus and whacked off his ear? Can this situation get any worse? Yep.
Peter goes so far this time as to reinforce his "no" with swearing. More forceful, yes. Gonna cause him pain later? Yep.
In the heat and anxiety of that moment, Peter hears a rooster crow. Immediately, the thoughts of Malchus, the crowd, even Jesus' scolding of him disappear. He remembers instead the words that Jesus had spoken to him a few hours earlier, "I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"
Oh, how my heart aches for Peter! He had done something he never dreamed he would. This is the absolute rock bottom for Peter. We've looked at how he slipped down the slope. We've learned from his experience and hopefully we won't let it happen in our lives. Just imagine the conflict in Peter right now. He has never stopped loving the Lord, because his faith hasn't failed. Jesus had prayed for him, that his faith would not fail. But he has failed in his witness -- he feels his own disappointment in himself.
Please look at Luke 22:61.
We know that God's timing is perfect, right? Jesus has just been led into the courtyard on his way to another trial, this time before Caiaphas. At the moment that the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked directly into the eyes of Peter. Singling him out in the crowd, Jesus looked at him. It was not a look of anger, nor was it an "I told you so" look. It was pure love and compassion. Jesus is looking at him with such tenderness . . . Peter is cursing and denying Him and He loves him. Peter melts. What else can he do. This is Peter's epiphany: at the point of his greatest failure, Jesus is standing there full of love and compassion for him.
Peter broke down under that gaze and began to weep. He rushed out into the night, a repentant man. But that is not the end of the story.
Far from it.
You see, Jesus later gave Peter the opportunity to be restored. What a comforting theme for us when we have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Peter's story is a warning to not allow discouragement or disagreement with God set us on a downward slide. But it's also a call to every one of us who are sincere believers and feel that we have failed God in some way. The One Who saved us is still just as able to restore us to Himself. His love is every bit as awesome as it was yesterday, or the day before.
We may feel the same kind of shame and disappointment in ourselves that Peter felt when that rooster crowed. We may be wondering how God could ever forgive us. Let us use Peter’s experience to turn our eyes to the one Who looks on us like no other can.
Look into our Savior’s eyes and see His love and compassion for us. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, as the old hymn says. Take that look into your own heart today and you will never be the same again.