Lenten Reader -- Day 19
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34) ----------
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus [after his arrest]. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself. (John 18:15-18)
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” (Matthew 26:71-73)
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” (John 18:26)
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75)
One thing about the Bible: it does not whitewash over character faults. Peter failed miserably, and it’s all there in black and white for us to read.
Under intense pressure, he abandoned his master and friend, literally, in his hour of trial. He had failed him already in the garden, when Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Peter had fallen asleep. Now he denies the One he said he would follow to prison, even if it meant death, not once but three times.
And so he weeps. Bitterly. He feels his failure, and it breaks him.
But this is not a story about Peter. This is a story about Jesus, and Jesus knew this would happen -- probably even before he chose Peter. He knew how Peter would be shaken up, sifted by Satan until his most sinful inclinations surfaced and could be exploited.
And he knew that Peter, like Jesus himself, would be made perfect through such suffering. This would, in the end, be used for good in Peter’s life. Something would be forged in him that would not be there otherwise.
God always redeems what he allows, even our worst failures -- perhaps especially our worst failures. It is through these failures that our pride and self-reliance lose their grip on our souls, and we are set free to run into the future God has for us.
Lord, you know me better than I know myself. You know what I am capable of. You know my limitations. You know my intentions, and you know that, while my spirit is often willing, my flesh is often so very weak. And yet you chose me anyway. The lengths to which you have gone to secure my place in your kingdom are overwhelming. Your love amazes me, and I want to immerse myself in you so completely that Satan cannot sift me. Use whatever means necessary to forge your character in my life, for I know that is your ultimate destiny for me -- that I become conformed to your image. Rid me of my self-reliance. Break the spine of my pride. Teach me the blessings of finding my sense of identity and worth only in you. And when I fail you, gently restore me, using even my failures to your greater glory. Amen.