Oh, zealous disciple, I love that when Jesus called, you dropped your nets immediately. You soaked up His teaching. You experienced His miracles firsthand and more importantly- His presence. Jesus gave you power over unclean spirits and called you a friend, not by facebook standards but the inner circle of twelve.
Oh, Peter I knowingly smile when I picture you on a boat proclaiming, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water” because I am no stranger to dramatic intensity. I know the exhilarating moment of faith required to throw yourself overboard and the following panic of “Is the One I know able to sustain this… to sustain me!?”
Oh, Peter you had your doubts but your sincerity leaps off Scripture’s pages. Perhaps lacking in follow through but your desire- Oh, Peter I understand the desire. While others questioned and gossiped you stood tall declaring, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. You heard the Father’s voice!
Jesus prophesied you as the rock He would build his church on… then rebuked you after He foretold His death and you responded with, “This shall not happen to you!” Oh, Peter it’s easy to draw our own conclusions from the sliver of understanding Jesus gives. It wouldn’t play out the way you had it pictured. It had to be hard to get your head around His story instead of the story you’d write. I get that.
“Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble… even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Oh, Peter- I know. You saw others dropping like flies, things were escalating, and you believed what you had was enough. You experienced Christ! You knew what you believed! You had an idea that it might get tough… but you were strong! You had faith! If you were like me you might’ve had the idea that you had to be stronger than most. You were a leader, Peter. People were looking to you and stakes were high.
Oh Peter, you had your guard up temporarily- wielding swords and cutting off ears. Defender!
Then… oh, Peter… confusion was high. Everything you knew was unraveling. Your guard came down in a moment and temptation seized you. It’s understandable, really… aren’t circumstances for sin always “understandable”? Otherwise we wouldn’t find ourselves there, right? Everything in me wants to help you justify, Peter. Yet ultimately, no justification was found. Jesus said you would, you said you wouldn’t, and when it came down to it- the Enemy had his day with you. Sifted like wheat, found weak and lacking, you denied Him. And oh, Peter- you didn’t stop yourself after the first time! You deliberately ran with it… three times and each worse than the last.
Oh, Peter. All the sincerity and passion you could muster couldn’t compete with the self preservation that reared its’ ugly head. When it came down to it, protecting yourself became more important than Truth, more important than hating sin, more important than trusting Jesus with the result. In the fear and swirling rationalizations that captured you in the moment, you forgot. You forgot thatthe wages of sin is death. By trying to hold tight to your life (something that wasn’t yours to grasp for) you were destined to lose it.
Then the moment of realization… the rooster crowing and the feeling every sinner knows, “(Insert expletive here),What am I doing!? What have I done!? Who have I hurt? Was that really me?” Eyes wide open, waves of guilt, remorse, and a resounding, “I told you so”.
Did you understand in that very moment a plan was unfolding? The sacrifice was being prepared that would give grace to cover that denial. The consequences were steep and the broken relationship unbearable but remember- the wages of sin is death. Anything less than death is His grace to you, even if the consequences look out of proportion for a seemingly innocent (and understandable) moment of weakness.
Oh Peter, your response humbles me. You don’t minimize your sin. You don’t explain it away defensively. You wept bitterly. You grieved. You stopped and acknowledged through tears the severity and saw it for what it was.
Did you question if your faith had ever been real, Peter? Were you sober in realizing how frail you were to turn so quickly? Was your identity shaken when you couldn’t recognize the cowering, weak man by the fire? Did you wonder if your intimacy with Christ had been imagined the whole time (how could you screw up if you were a “real” believer)? Did you ache to avoid the eyes of the others who imagined they would never do such a thing? Did you vow to never open your big mouth again and wish the earth would swallow you whole? Did you kick yourself because instead of suffering for Christ, even martyrdom, you essentially self-crucified? Oh, to suffer nobly instead of suffering due to your own stupidity!
Then when it was finished… He came to you. Oh, Peter with your failures written visibly across you! There He was on the shore, you on the boat. I can’t read the account without tears because instead of hiding your face in shame, instead of shouting your defense, instead of waiting to be consoled- you plunged into the sea. You didn’t wonder about the others, “Do they question my sincerity? Will this build or break my credibility? Will they think, ‘there goes impulsive Peter again’?” You didn’t worry that Jesus might reject you. You didn’t hold back for fear of future failures. It seems your singular thought was, “There is my Jesus and I need to be with Him.”
How this proves you knew your Lord! Perhaps this desperation only comes from being faced with your own depravity. What was left but to cling to Jesus and abandon insecurity, unknowns, and… your boat?
Oh, Jesus. He feeds you. He comforts you. He gives you an opportunity to rebuild- to affirm your love for Him. He reminds you that yes, you did have intimacy with Him (itwas real). Yes, you broke that. Yes, by His sacrifice He forgave, restored, and ultimately redeemed the failure, establishing you in Himself. Yes, there are consequences. Yes, you’ll always be “that guy who denied Jesus”. Yet, you weren’t disqualified. You weren’t useless and it wasn’t over. Alas, His plan was superior to yours the whole time and His love story sweeter.
Then at the end of the day Jesus offers you the same as He did that very first day: “Follow Me”.
And oh Peter…you did.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...