As I have been walking through this lenten season, I have been reading through the Gospel of Mark. I love rereading the accounts of Jesus’ life on earth. One of my most favorite parts of the story is his relationship with his disciples. He chooses these 12 men who are kind of rough around the edges and pours his love and wisdom upon them for 3 years. He teaches and guides them in the strangest ways. They are curious and ask the dumb questions and argue over silly things. Often times they miss the entire point of the story while others they grasp the truth he is teaching. The patience Jesus demonstrates towards them is outstanding. They get a front row seat to the miraculous healings, resurrections and provisions that Jesus performs and then they still worry about what they will eat the next moment.
After the infamous Last Supper, Jesus announces that all will desert and deny him in due time. Peter, who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and friends, begins to protest. He speaks with full assurance in his faithfulness to his Lord. He says directly and confidently, “though everyone else will fall way, I will never fall away”. (Matthew 26:33). I believe Peter is speaking with great intentions and out of devout devotion for his teacher, yet he misunderstands his own human heart condition and forgets the authority of Jesus in that moment. Ultimately, he thinks more highly of himself than he should. We know that in just the turn of the page, Peter who spoke with boldness out of loyalty and love, will use that same boldness to speak out of fear and self preservation to deny any kind of connection with Jesus at all. In just a moment, he is quick to turn away from His beloved teacher and friend.
In my opinion, one of the most dramatic passages of all scripture is the account in Luke 22:60-62. But Peter said, Man I do not know what you are talking about. And immediately while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the saying of the Lord how he had said to him. “Before the rooster crows today you will deny me three times. This passage shakes me to my core. The emotion that Peter must have felt. I can picture it. Jesus looks directly into Peters eyes and connects with him. I imagine it to be a pained look of heartbreak, but one still filled with great compassion and love. It goes on to say Peter ran away and wept bitterly. The amount of disappointment and shame he must have experienced is overwhelming to think about. He had so badly wanted to stand with Jesus until the end, yet he had failed.
I think Peter’s story stands out to me because I can so easily see myself in it. I am guilty like Peter of making outlandish claims that may sound like faith, but really are disguising my pride and self-exaltation. I would never do such a terrible “fill in the blank” sin. I would never hurt someone I loved. Everyone else might do it, but not me because my faith and love for Jesus outweighs them all. However, it doesn’t take much time, maybe just the turn of a page, for me to fall away and lose my way. When I disregard my sinful heart condition and the relationship that Jesus has forged with me, I begin to forget a lot of very important things. I forget that Jesus chose me and that He loves me. I forget that he has done great things for me, that He has done miracles. He has resurrected my life and breathed anew into it. He has spoken truth and blessing over me. I forget my complete dependency I have on Him and I begin to think more highly of myself. I forget that I am capable of great sin and that’s why I need a rescuer.
Good Friday is the best reminder to all of us of the desperation of our sin and shame. None of us are good enough. Jesus went to the cross because of our sinful human heart condition and the incapability for us to save ourselves. If we truly grasp the truth of what the gospel is telling us, we know that is foolish to say “I could never” because the capability to do great sin lives inside each of us.We ought not to think we above sin. Jesus gave up his life for us while we were still sinners, not yet repentant. We were still in rebellion and denying who he was. Jesus hung on that cross the same day that his closest disciples betrayed him, and he still loved them anyway. What extravagant forgiving love he models to all of us.
Good Friday reminds me that even though I have had significant hurt done to me, because of Christ’s example on the cross I can walk with forgiveness and love. There is great redemption in Peter’s story. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples and it is Peter who jumps into the sea excited to see his risen Lord again. He does not allow his failure to keep him from finding joy in Jesus again. Whatever the sin or failure that has happened in our lives, it is then when we need Jesus the most. He is always waiting there with forgiveness and compassion in his eyes. What a beautiful Savior we have been given!