Monday, February 16, 2015

When we hit "rock bottom"

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

This is John's accounting of the sham and illegal trials of our Lord. None of the rules of proper justice were followed. None of the guidelines that were set up in Jewish law were utilized.
But there is another issue here that John wants us to see.
While Jesus was being put on trial, Peter was also facing his own trial -- it was the trying of his faith. And Jesus had predicted this only a few hours earlier. The Lord had warned Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.
And in this passage, that sifting happens.
And Peter denies His Master three times.
And Peter realizes he has hit "rock bottom."

For many of us, "rock bottom" is not just a phrase, or a term flippantly used; it is a reality. Either in our past or our present, and for some of us it is in our future.
Anyone who is struggling to overcome addiction knows full well what it means to hit rock bottom.
Anyone who is dealing with discouragement, despair, and depression knows it, too. Anyone (like Peter) who has given his very best but still failed, knows just how it feels.

Like many of us, Peter is a sincere, dedicated follower of Jesus. Do you feel like there's any room for a true follower of Jesus to hit bottom?  Does that "jive" with your theology? Some people just can't see it . . . they feel like if you love the Lord and live a godly life, you are going to prosper -- not slip and fall. But wait a minute! Peter is not climbing a career ladder here. He isn't working his way up the ladder of success. He is falling into failure, and he experiences an emotional wreck of proportions that we might find hard to imagine.

Judas' betrayal? Hey, we saw that coming, right? He had hardened his heart, and all along he has shown us that he is more interested in the money that anything else. He was a thief, right?  Not really trying to serve the Lord, but to use Him and the other disciples for his own plans. No sincerity here. No devotion to Christ. Just a cold, hardened heart.

But Peter is different. Just as we think that we, ourselves are very different. Peter really does love the Lord, and he's trying hard to do what is right, just as we are. So, how can a person with such great motivation find themselves at the point of utter failure?  The truth is, sincere, devoted people can and will fail the Lord. Even David, who was a man after God's own heart committed a terrible sin. Come on, now, this is the guy that wrote most of the Psalms! But sometimes good people act out of character. Remember Abraham? He did it, too. He lied to Pharaoh about his wife, Sarah. He wasn't a habitual liar; he was a man of integrity. But hey, in that situation, he blew it! He blew it big, too. But the New Testament Abraham is not called a liar, but a man of faith.

There must be more here than we see on the surface, no? In these cases, there were negative consequences that followed after the sin. Nobody really "gets away" with anything, and if you were to ask King David if his fling was worth it, he would tell you emphatically, "No!" He suffered horribly, but that one sin was not a full picture of who he was. Even when God has forgiven us, we are not always the same. Peter had a lot of good things going for him, but we always remember that he denied the Lord. He (and his reputation, too) was changed by his sin.

Up until now, Peter had been a very courageous person. Looking at other passages about him, who would have thought that he would be the disciple to deny the Lord. He certainly didn't think so, since a few hours earlier he had told Jesus even if he had to die with Him, he'd not disown Him. Peter had every intention of being true to His Lord to the very end.  We sure don't expect to see him cowering and denying Him. You might very well expect him to pull out his sword on impulse, and cut off someone's ear! But back down? Deny Jesus? No way!

But on this night, he acts way out of character. And this night, a sincere follower of Christ will hit rock bottom . . .


Katie Isabella said...

Yes he did. I have always wondered why anyone would deny Him. I wonder about the Christians in today;s world who are being persecuted for their faith? They seem to not have denied Him. They will see Him...ARE seeing Him in heaven now.

Belinda said...

I seem to judge Peter pretty easily...but what would I have done in his place? I honestly can't say. I would HOPE I stood firm in my faith, but I fear I might not. No one really truly knows until faced with it. The reward for standing firm is awesome and the forgiveness for failing a certainty if we are truly repentant.