Walking into Holy Week means a lot (or a little) to each of us individually. I will be honest, I have never done a deep meditation during this week—I read the accounts and I pray but for some reason Easter has a tendency to creep up on me (Christmas does this too). When I finally realize it’s time to prepare, it’s already Maundy Thursday and I find myself more concerned about finding a ham than contemplating the passion of the Christ.
However, I am in good company. Easter snuck up on Peter, too.
We actually don’t meet Peter right away. His journey with Jesus actually begins with his brother, Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist. JB says to two of his disciples that Jesus is the way, the True Teacher and Lamb of God. So, Andrew spends the day with Jesus and at the end of it, the first thing he does is find his brother, Simon (Peter), and tell him that he has found the Christ. Now in my mind, I see Peter give his brother a raised eyebrow of “uh huh” over the fishing nets he’s putting away. But, Peter goes and checks out Jesus for himself. And Simon encounters the Christ and is renamed Peter; he is among the first to recognize and openly declare that Jesus is the Christ.
Over the next three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter would walk on water with Jesus, see his mother in law healed and saved from death. He would be rebuked for the stupid things he said and did and praised for his great faith. He would witness countless miracles of healing and be considered one Jesus’ closest friends.
At their final dinner together, Jesus washes all of the disciples’ feet—the job of a slave. Peter protests at this “unworthy” act and when Jesus points out this act of service would make Peter clean, Peter (as was his nature) swings to the opposite side and says, “Not just my feet, but all of me, too…” Jesus gently says all he needs is feet washed. Later at dinner, Jesus announces that He is to be betrayed by one of them. And (wisely?) they all ask, “Is it me?” But Peter also proclaims, “Even if I it causes me my death, I will never betray you!” And Jesus gently tells him that before the night is over, Peter will deny Him not once, but three different times.
And then Peter finds himself in a garden…
Peter has just watched (and fallen asleep while) the Savior prays, begs, for the burden of the cross to pass from Him—but Jesus says, “Not my will but Yours” and yields to the Father’s plan for man’s reconciliation back to Him.
Then, things get bad. Roman soldiers in the charge of religious leaders following a former friend turned betrayer come to take Jesus away. Peter, again as is nature, over-reacts, grabs a sword and cuts off a dude’s ear. And as is HIS nature, Jesus, rebukes Peter in truth (He had told them repeatedly this would happen) and heals the servant’s ear.
The disciples scatter. Jesus is left alone. And Peter, he lurks in shadows watching Him be lead to His torture and death.
And then things get really bad. Peter, the rock Jesus said He would build His church on, crumbles under the questioning of such powerful people as a bunch of strangers and a slave girl.
He denies Jesus three times and as a cock crows, everything he knows about himself, all that he gave up and sacrificed over the last three years…all that he wanted his faith life to be about was crushed. So he ran away.
This Easter I’m reminded of the times I have run away because the truth of God—who He is, how He does things, His plan that I don’t fully understand—sneaks up on me. And I shouldn’t be surprised; like the disciples, I often get warned about what’s coming. I just don’t listen.
Now we know how it all ends but Peter didn’t. He was in the midst of a massive crisis. This comforts me. I don’t know the end of my story either but watching Peter’s failure (and restoration) reminds me that nothing separates us from Him. Nothing. Jesus is triumphant in all things. It may not come in the way I want but it does come.
This Easter, regardless of what your past says remember what God’s word says:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-40
And this is my prayer for all of us:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21