I would guess that the most well-known of Jesus’s 12 disciples is the Apostle Peter. Everyone knows about Peter and many feel a special kinship to him. Why? Because the most popular stories of Peter are stories about how he screwed up. Who can’t relate? In fact, some of you may be going through a phase in your life when you feel like everything you do is wrong. You are not alone, many of us have been there. Recently, a random thought occurred to me, How does Peter (obviously now in Heaven) feel about the fact that his mistakes were recorded in the most popular book of all time? And, How does he feel about being often used as an example of what NOT to do? Right now, if it were me, I would probably become an off-the-grid hermit! One of Peter’s most popular faux pas is when he denied Jesus three times. What makes this story stand out is the fact that Jesus told him what was going to happen and Peter refused to believe it. Jesus explained to His disciples that all of them would disown Him but Peter not only disagreed but argued with Jesus. Peter’s exact response is as follows per the book of Mark:
Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”… Mark 14:29-31
Strong words from a man who had been called out several times before for his emotional knee jerk reactions. As a person, Peter was passionate and impulsive. He was a man who’s mouth worked faster than his brain. Not only that but there were always witnesses to his mistakes. Even if he wanted to forget about his past errors, there were always others who would remember the details clearly. So it’s funny to me how in his impassioned response he threw his friends under the bus. Did you catch that? His first response was that even if all of the other disciples failed, he never would. He was claiming to be more faithful than them. To say that Peter’s attitude was foolish is obvious. To say that Peter’s behavior is unique to Peter is also foolish! Again, it wasn’t Peter’s denial in and of itself that made this story worthy of being recorded in the Bible. Jesus was clear that all of His disciples would deny Him – and they did. What made Peter’s folly unique compared to the others was that he thought he knew better than Jesus to the point that he argued with the Son of God.
What about you, have you had the nerve to tell Jesus that He is wrong? Like Peter, have you gone public with your opinion? Here are some things to ask yourself: How many instructions or warnings in the Bible are you able to explain away or choose to ignore because they no longer make sense in this day and age? Are there warnings in the Bible that are for other people that are spiritually or mentally weaker than you? Do you classify some passages as applicable only to strict or uber conservative Christians? Do you rely on phrases such as Do not judge without actually studying the context for yourself?
I double-dog-dare you (Oh yes I did!) to read those questions again and then pause to think a moment. Recall those passages that you have heard or read that make you uncomfortable or make you want to roll your eyes because the preacher always takes the idea too far. Ask God to bring passages to your heart that you have unknowingly ignored or just not understood. The Bible was written for us specifically so that we would know what God had done for us, what He wants for us and what He wants us to watch out for. Not heeding parts of the Bible is telling God He is wrong. Is this any different than what Peter did? The scariest part of this whole process is possibly discovering you have been wrong. The best part of this whole process is realizing that Jesus has been preparing you for this very moment. The book of Luke records Jesus’s warning to Peter and the other disciples too, but Luke tells us a little more:
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22:31-32
Very simply, the above passage tells us the following: Satan wanted to ruin Peter. Jesus wanted to save Peter. Jesus had been praying for Peter and for his faith not to fall away. Jesus knew that Peter would screw up. Jesus also knew that Peter would come to his senses and repent because Jesus has been praying for him. Lastly, Jesus still had work for Peter to do. Later we see that Peter does recognize his failure, that Jesus welcomes him back and that Peter accomplished great things in obedience to God’s will and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Satan wants us to fail too. The Father of Lies works around the clock telling us why we are doing just fine spiritually. But Jesus prays for us. The Bible tells us that He intercedes for us before His Father day and night. However, like Peter we have to humble our hearts to the point of recognizing our failure before the Lord. Also like Peter, realizing our sin does not disqualify us from being called a Child of God. Additionally, it does not mean that we can no longer serve Him. What it does mean is that God can finally use us to the best of His ability instead of settling for the best of our own ability. According to the Bible, our best is trash compared to what God can do.
Again, Peter’s big mistake was that he thought Christ’s words did not apply to Him. Ask God to search your heart – especially when you are feeling spiritually just fine. Jesus is praying for you very specifically and waiting for you to realize your sin, repent of your sin and return to Him. Back to my random thought about Peter: I think Peter is glad that so much of his folly is recorded in the Bible for countless readers to see. Peter loved Jesus while he was alive. Now that he is in heaven, his love for his Savior is no longer impeded by the devil, his own selfish desires or fear of what others may think of him. Peter’s story gives all glory to God because the fact that Jesus loved and died for Peter anyway shows what a wonderful Savior we have. Sometimes, the devil makes us believe that Jesus only died for the sins we committed before we became Christians and that is scary. The truth is however that Jesus died for every sin we would ever commit – even after knowing better.