Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"....and Peter"

“But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”  Mark 16:7 (KJV) 

What comfort!  What peace!  What relief!  On Resurrection Morning, the angel at the empty tomb of Jesus told Mary to go her way and tell Jesus’ disciples….and Peter…that He went before them into Galilee and He would meet them there, just like He said.  Did you catch the part where the angel said, “….and Peter”?  Why do you think the angel put him in a category all by himself?  Why didn’t the angel just say, “tell His disciples”?  That would have been all-encompassing.  Why didn’t the angel say, “….and James” or “tell His disciples….and Bartholomew” or one of the other disciples? 

Peter….if there were ever a disciple I feel like I can relate to, he’s the one.  Strong-willed, too quick to speak, the first to want to “do” something to fix things, fiercely loyal, yet falling short when it matters most.  He was one of Jesus’ inner circle…one of the intimate three…the ones who were invited in at pivotal points in Jesus’ ministry, while the others were kept at a distance. 

Remember crucifixion night?  Earlier in the evening, it was Peter who promised Jesus that no matter what, he would support Him, be there for Him, follow Him….even if it cost him his life.  He vowed that no matter who else forsook him, He could always count on him….to the end.  You know, I think Peter meant every word he said.  I think Peter was a good-hearted man.  I believe he loved Jesus more than anyone else on earth, and I feel certain he had the best and most noble intentions of sticking to his vows.

But, alas!  Just a few hours later, he failed….miserably….horribly.  When the rubber met the road, so to speak, his words turned out to be just empty promises.  Three different people recognized that he was one of Jesus’ disciples.  And three different times, he vehemently denied that he was.  He even went so far as to curse and swear that he didn’t even know Jesus.  And then came the moment….Jesus’ eyes met his!  Oh, can you imagine?  The deep-seated remorse, the agonizing regret, the stabbing pain as Jesus’ eyes looked past Peter’s eyes, right into the depths of his anguished soul!  Remember, Jesus warned Peter that this would happen.  He told him that before the rooster crowed, he would already have denied Him three times….and that is precisely what happened.

In that moment of truth, as Jesus’ and Peter’s eyes met, Peter realized he didn’t have what he thought he did.  He saw himself for what he was….someone with the best of intentions, but without the steadfastness to back up those intentions.  As the cruel Roman soldiers led Jesus past Peter…away into the night….to meet His awful destiny, Peter turned and he did something that touches my heart each time I read about it.  The Bible says in Matthew 26:75 (KJV), “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” 

He wept bitterly.  His heart was broken….full of anguish.  Oh, how he must have wished he could go back and do the evening over!  So many questions must have run through his tortured mind!  What had happened?  He had so much resolve!  So much dedication, so much genuine love for his Master!  So, how could he have done this….not once, not twice, but an astonishing three times….he had gone way beyond what he ever thought possible.  He had let Him down…right in the moment it mattered most.  And now, nothing he could ever say or do, would ever take it back or make it right.  So, he went out….he found a solitary place…a lonely place…somewhere that no one could hear, perhaps….and he wept.  Not just a little whimper.  Bitter tears, wrenched from a broken spirit and a contrite heart that had been completely stripped of all pretense. 

Have you ever failed God?  Have you ever thought with all your heart that you had what it took to be faithful through a particularly trying test of your faith?  Even found yourself scorning others who had failed in the same trial?  Maybe elevated yourself above them in your own mind and thought YOU would be the one who could and would pass through anything that came your way with the highest level of spirituality and faithfulness.  Then, one day, the real trial came…in the form of what you dreaded and feared the most…and when it came right down to the point of truth…you failed.  Miserably and completely. 

Moments like this are some of the lowest possible points of the human condition.  Only those who have passed through such mournful valleys could ever really relate and understand.  After all of the promises, after looking down at others who failed, after feeling great confidence in your own ability to glide faithfully through….to find yourself here….humbled to the point of total and complete abandon of all human pride.  This is a place of total brokenness before Almighty God. 

This is the point Peter found himself that night….weeping bitterly.  And this was his point of redemption, forgiveness, restoration, and acceptance.  This was his moment of transformation…he would walk away from this a changed man….never the same.

Can you imagine his joy and relief when three days later, Mary came and delivered his personalized message from the angel?  Jesus was waiting for him in Galilee!  There were no words of scorn, no scolding, no “How could you do it, Peter?  Why did you let me down, Peter?  I thought you said you would stand by me.  I thought I could count on you.  You denied Me when I needed you most, Peter, even after I warned you of your weakness!”  Just the sweet message of "tell Peter, especially Peter, that I am going before him, and I want him to meet me in Galilee!"

When Jesus met His disciples for the first time after His resurrection, do you recall what His first word was to them?  John 20:19 (KJV) says, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  Peace….Peter heard it!  Peter was forgiven!  Jesus wasn’t angry with him.  There was no animosity between them…not even a mention of what took place that dreadful night.  Total complete forgiveness….and peace….and perfect reconciliation.

This is the wonderful gift that is waiting for you…and me.  Have you failed?  Do you find yourself in a place you never thought you would be?  Did you deny Him, at the moment it mattered most?  Have you gone farther away from Him than you ever thought possible?  I have a message for you today…..from Him.  He loves you.  He’s willing to put it in the past.  He is ready to forgive.  Psalm 86:5 (KJV) says, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”   

If Jesus could forgive the man who openly denied Him, in the most crucial moment of His life, isn’t there hope that He will forgive you?  Absolutely.  And just as He went before Peter into Galilee and sent word through an angel to have him meet Him there, He left word for you, my friend.  He's waiting for you...arms wide-open, ready to the cross.

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