Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Story of Shame and Grace. My Soul Knows It Well.

There’s a verse that haunts me. It has haunted me since I first read it. It haunts me because it has never jumped out at me until I started studying the events leading up to the crucifixion. It’s a verse that overwhelms me at times because out of everyone in the Bible I most relate to this one…Peter. Peter was impetuous. He was a leader. He was passionate and eager. Did you ever notice that no one else had courage to get out of the boat or even ask about getting out of the boat during the storm? Just sayin’.

Peter was an all-in kind of guy. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift Peter. Jesus tells Peter without telling Peter straight out that Satan is going to try him, and Jesus wanted Peter to know that He had prayed for him. “But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Oh my word, Jesus calls him SIMON. Did you catch that? Simon is the name used before Peter affirmed who Jesus was. I wonder if Peter caught that. I wonder if Peter thought it odd that Jesus would call him Simon after all this time of being called Peter, or he may not have thought a thing about it until retrospect. Jesus knew that Simon Peter would turn his back, but He also knew that Peter would return to him. Did you catch that? “And when you have turned back…” I’m sure Peter had to be confused a little, but I know he had to have played those words back to himself over and over again once things settled.

It’s Peter’s response that shows his heart, his intent, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you to prison and to death” (33). Jesus then tells Peter that he will deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows. What turmoil and internal struggle Peter had to be enduring, but it’s just the beginning. It’s just the beginning.

Jesus takes the disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. He then takes Peter, James and John further in and asks them to pray. Jesus tells them to pray so that they won’t fall into temptation. Peter needed this time of prayer. He did. He really needed it, but instead he fell asleep. When Jesus woke them, Jesus had been praying so fervently that he had drops of blood on his face. Think for a moment. If your child came and woke you in the middle of the night with blood all over their face, what would your initial response be? I would be freaking out without a doubt.

As Jesus is telling them to get up and pray is when the mob shows up with Judas, and the events start unfolding so quickly. Peter slices of the high priest’s, servant’s ear smooth off. He is a man of action, impetuous action. Jesus fixes Peter’s mistake. He takes the ear and reattaches it good as new, and tells Peter to put his sword away. He tells Peter and those around him that he could call 72,000 angels down if He so chose to do (Mt), but Jesus has come to fulfill Scripture. So let it be.

Jesus is led away to the high priest’s palace in the middle of the night to be interrogated. They tried to find false witnesses, but none of their stories stuck. Meanwhile Peter is in the courtyard. Most likely within earshot of Jesus, and I’ll show you why I think this in a minute. Jesus remained silent which was an admission of guilt in this illegal Jewish court.  They spit in his face, hit Him with their fists, slapped Him, and mocked Him. All during this time, a girl, then a woman confronted Peter about his association with Jesus. Peter denied knowing Jesus. The Sanhedrin voted that Jesus should be put to death because Jesus said He would destroy the temple and raise it up in three days, but the Sanhedrin lacked the authority to put anyone to death. Peter is confronted for the third and final time, and Peter denies Jesus. And here is the verse that haunts me. After Jesus has endured the initial mocking and beating and being humiliated, And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter recalled the Lord’s words” (Luke 22:61). The rooster crows as Peter denies for the third time, and Jesus made eye contact with Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. I can so feel the weight of that moment.

It is no wonder that Peter wept bitterly and sorrowfully (Lk 22:62). I’m just telling you I would be bawling uncontrollably. You know that ugly, guttural cry with snot going everywhere. It’s one thing to do something and not get caught or even to get caught afterwards, but to see the look on Jesus’ face just at the moment when you have failed Him the most. I just wonder what was the look on Jesus’ face. There’s no look that would have made Peter felt any better or any worse.

We really don’t hear much more from Peter or see him in Scripture until after the Passover meal when Jesus has been placed in the tomb, and the believers have come together to grieve. The women go to put spices at the tomb and encounter the angels. The women return and told the eleven and the others what they saw. Most didn’t believe them, but Peter, he got up and ran. He ran to the grave. He saw the empty tomb. He saw the strips of linen. What he didn’t see was the body of Christ. Luke 24:12, …he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

And when you have returned…  John 21: 1-14 shows the disciples have returned to their old way of life – fishing. It’s what they knew. It’s what they were comfortable doing. But Jesus wasn’t done with them, and Jesus knew that in order for them to become the New Testament church that Peter needed to be restored. Jesus gives Peter the same number of opportunities to acknowledge his love for Jesus as the number of times Peter denied Jesus. How healing that must have been for Peter. I hope it removed his shame. I think it had to have.

This is truly a story of grace. It’s a story that I need. It’s the story my heart craves.

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