By Daphne Delay
"Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" These are the infamous words of Peter. Words I'm sure he rolled over and over in his mind after he did in fact deny Jesus.
Earlier in the day, Jesus had warned the disciples of the events that were about to happen. With swelling love for His Savior, Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert [or disown] you” (Matthew 26:33, NLT).
"Don't be so sure," Jesus said. "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times" (Matthew 26:34, MSG).
Peter then became emphatic. "No Lord. Even If I have to die with You, I will not deny You" (Matthew 26:35).
How many times have we done the same (in word or deed)? How many times have we uttered such declarations to the Lord in a moment of great, swelling love for the One who saved us -- only to fall short of our promises?
As He predicted, Jesus was arrested and His disciples scattered in fear. The scriptures only mention Peter during this period:
As he was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75, NLT).
There should be no doubt Peter loved Jesus. Yet in a moment of uncertainty and fear, Peter did the unthinkable. He denied and disowned the One he promised to die for. At the revelation and impact at what he'd done, Peter wept bitterly. I wonder if, in his anguish, he remembered something else the Lord once said to him and the others.
"Don't be naive. Some people will [challenge] your motives; others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.
"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Beelzebub,' what can the workers expect? Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now. Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?" (Matthew 10:17-33, MSG)
Jesus in fact, said these words: "...whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." The very thought of Jesus denying me crushes my heart. I can only imagine how Peter felt. Jesus had warned them they would be bullied. He told them what to do and who to fear. Yet Peter had feared man more than God. Broken and remorseful, he wept bitterly.
King David once wept bitterly also. He said, "Against You, and You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight-- That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge (Psalms 51:4). David was guilty of adultery, murder, and deception. In great anguish, he begged the Lord,
"Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit" (Psalms 51:11-12).
David acknowledged his sin, both in brokenness and repentance. And God did restore David and Peter. Why?
"[Because] the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God" (Psalms 51:17, NLT).
In His mercy, God will not reject, deny or disown the one who recognizes their failure and sin. David is remembered as a man after God's own heart and Peter became one of the most powerful evangelists of his time, winning over three thousand to the Lord on the day of Pentecost. In a moment of weakness, they each denied the Lord. Yet in a separate moment of broken humbleness, they were restored. The unthinkable is the inconceivable and unimaginable --that our God is merciful and His mercy endures forever.
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Daphne Delay is the founder of Mirror Ministries in Seminole, Texas. She is the author of Facing the Mirror: Finding a Self to Live With. She blogs nuggets of spiritual growth encouragement every week at mirrorministries.org on the subjects of faith, purpose, and self. You can also catch her weekly podcast at identityadvantage.org.
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