Mark 14:43-72; Matthew 26:47-75; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:1-27
I like Peter. I guess maybe I see myself in him in some ways. Peter often speaks without thinking and acts before considering the consequences and I’ve been known to do the same. Peter and I are both pretty emotional people.
Peter, on the Mount of Transfiguration, was ready to build a shrine on the spot where Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah. He was so excited about what he had seen. But Jesus just kinda said, ‘calm down, Peter’.
When Jesus told them he was going to die Peter spoke up and said, ‘No way!!!’. Jesus said, ‘Way’.
When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet Peter first refused. When Jesus explained the importance Peter said, ‘not just my feet then. Wash my all of me, too’. Jesus said, ‘no Peter. I’m washing feet.’
So it comes as no surprise that it was Peter who grabbed a sword and chopped off an ear of one who came to arrest Jesus when Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to protect him. Jesus put the ear back on the man.
It was Peter who boldly proclaimed, “I will never deny you, Jesus!”, then only a few hours later denied Jesus three times. And this is what breaks my heart every time I read it: after denying he even knew Jesus, the rooster crowed and Peter caught Jesus’ eye. Did he see condemnation there? Was Jesus saying, ‘I told you so’?
I think what he saw in Jesus’ eyes that morning was unconditional love. Peter, faced with his sin, was overcome with God’s love. And he wept bitterly. I can only imagine the depth of his shame and the intensity of his tears. I think he cried from a place so deep within himself he had never known existed before.
God is telling me today that coming to know him is an emotional thing for many of us. When we are faced with our own sin, Peter’s reaction doesn’t seem that far wrong. Our helpless estate, our total depravity, our sin is met with grace. Jesus forgives us. We look into his eyes and see acceptance and forgiveness and more love than we have ever experienced in this lifetime. A natural reaction is to cry out, weep bitterly as we lay it all at his feet and realize how much he has done for us.
But if we remain there, if we expect our relationship with Christ to be based on that emotion, we will look like Peter looked in the Gospels. We will say and do things that are not necessarily wrong, but perhaps a bit misguided. As we read on in the New Testament we’ll find that this emotional Peter grew up in the Lord. He became the pillar of the church just like Jesus predicted.
May we, like Peter, learn to balance the emotional and the practical sides of our relationship with Jesus. May we serve him, thoughtfully and purposefully. And may we love him passionately.