Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh, Peter . . .

Back in Sunday School when I was, oh, seven or eight I guess, my teacher decided we should act out one of the stories from the Gospels. The transfiguration, if I recall. I got assigned the part of Peter. "What?" I remember thinking. "I have to be a boy?" LOL. Given that the class was mostly girls and the Gospels mostly boys, this shouldn't have surprised me. So I acted out the part of Peter--Peter the Bold, Peter the Daring.

Peter became my favorite disciple, and it's honestly just because I had to 'be' him for ten minutes one day. (I always had a very fierce loyalty like that.) I paid close attention any time he entered the scene. He held a special place in my heart. And yet, I'm not all that much like him. I'm really more of an Andrew, but we don't see a whole lot of him. =)

And then there are the moments when Peter SO disappoints me. Mostly, of course, when he denied Jesus during the night after He's arrested. This is one of the parts of the story that is nearly identical from one Gospel account to the next. Peter swears he's willing to go anywhere with Jesus, even to prison or to death. Jesus shakes his head (can't you just see the sorrow in his eyes?) and says, "Simon, I tell you that before the rooster crows you'll deny me three times."

As a reader, you know he will. I mean, Jesus said it, and it made it into the Book. But still child-Roseanna cried out, "Don't do it, Peter! Prove him wrong!" (Ahem, child-Roseanna. Like that would be a good thing!) But obviously Peter doesn't listen to me. He follows when Jesus is taken to the court, he sits down with the enemy around the fire. And when a girl looks at him and says, "Hey, weren't you one of those dudes that went around with Jesus?" (paraphrased, of course), he said, "What in the world are you talking about? [Insert nervous laughter.] I've never heard of the man."

Was it fear? Fear of being arrested too, fear of being looked down upon, fear of being judged? Or was it maybe fear that the man he'd put his entire faith in, given up his life for, was not who he thought He was? Maybe he just didn't want to get involved, didn't want to be shaken from his little bubble of sorrow, but he knew that talking to those people would force him outside himself.

I honestly don't know. And for a long time I've wondered, because, well, if it could happen to Peter it could happen to any of us. We have the benefit of living in a country that allows us to worship as we choose (nominally, at least--let's not break open the political can of worms . . .). So for us, it's never a matter of "Admit Christ and die--deny him and live."

And yet . . . it is often a matter of "Admit him and get snubbed by the popular crowd" or something akin to it.

Peter denied Jesus in words, vehemently. Me . . . have I ever denied Him in my actions? In my silence?

I went through a phase in middle school where I just didn't want to get in a disagreement with anybody, I didn't want people to dislike me (it was kind of a been-there-done-that sort of thing, and I'd gotten tired of being the maverick). So I would equivocate. On everything. I'd say, "Wow, I love this weather!" and if someone else said, "I don't know, it could be ten degrees warmer . . . " I'd quickly add, "Well, that would be nice too, you're right."

Then it struck me one day--I might as well be lying. I wasn't being honest with anyone about anything, and what if someone brought up something important, like faith? Would I sidestep it then? I decided I couldn't. And if that meant that someone didn't like me, well phooey on them.

A silly example, but it's the best I can come up with at 6 a.m., before coffee. =) You get the point though, right? Maybe we've never denied him exactly like Peter, but can any of us say we never have at all? Seriously doubt it.

But still, Peter was the rock upon which the church was built. Why, if he was so weak he couldn't stand up for Jesus when it mattered most?

I think it's because the moment that rooster crowed and he realized what he'd done, he went away and wept. Bitterly. That, right there, is the contrite spirit the Lord asks of us. Yes, Peter made a mistake. But he realized it, and he not only repented, it tore him up inside. He didn't shrug it off and say, "Well, guess you were right, Jesus. I'll do better next time, okay?"

That, I think, is the really hard part. Going away and turning our hearts completely over to God. But we have to. We're all going to mess up, we're going to have those moments when we deny our Christ in one way or another. What does that do to us?

In the second half of A Stray Drop of Blood, Abigail stumbles. It tears her up, and her dreams are haunted by the Truth:

But that night she dreamed of the earth shaking, of thunder rolling in, of the midday sky turning black as night. She dreamed of a colorless world, with naught to brighten it but a single glistening, perfectly formed drop of blood that hovered in the air like the sun. In her dream she stirred, reached, tried to touch the crimson sphere, but it evaded her. In her dream she wept, stretched, demanded of God an explanation for why he withheld his salvation. Just before she awoke, she looked down at her own dream-created feet and saw that it was she who was moving away. And the drop of blood fell onto the world, erasing the darkness and leaving it bright as morning again.

But still she stood in the shadows.


3 comments:

  1. How beautiful that Jesus knows Peter will deny him, and forgives him before it even happens. How comforting, knowing most, if not all of us, will play Peter at some point, to some degree?

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  2. Peter has always been my favorite disciple too. His personality just leaps off the page. A passage that always brings tears to my eyes is John 21:7. It's after Jesus has been resurrected, and he's appeared to the disciples once before, but the chapter starts out with, "Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias," so some time has obviously lapsed. Peter is out fishing with a few of the disciples, and the Lord calls out to them from the shore.

    Verse 7 says, "Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water."

    I absolutely love that Peter couldn't stand to wait for the boat to come ashore, that he had to go be with Jesus NOW. He's certainly a different man after he weeps over denying Jesus.

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  3. Its funny for me how at times I am standing there wondering how Peter could deny Christ or how Israel could rebel once again...those are the times when as you say God brings me to my knees. I'm thankful for the examples God gives us to show us just how fallible we are when we are not relying on His spirit. And I'm thankful that He can use us in spite of all these character flaws, where He can be used in our weaknesses in great ways.

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