“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and one maid came up to him and said, ‘You were also with Jesus the Galilean!’ But he denied it falsely before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’ And when he had gone out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This fellow was with Jesus the Nazarene!’ And again he denied it, and disowned Him with an oath, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’ After a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘You certainly are one of them too, for even your accent betrays you.’ Then Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear. ‘I do not even know the Man!’ And at that moment a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered Jesus’ words.”
Matthew 26: 69-75
Guilt can cause me to deny myself – especially the person God wants me to be.
“Deny” – To declare untrue. To refuse to believe or recognize. To disavow.
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.”
“Accept me, Lord, as I am, and make me such as thou wouldst have me to be.”
(Missionary in Africa)
He was one of Jesus’ dearest friends. A disciple who was one of the first to follow and most devoted through the years. He was what we call a man’s man. A fisherman. A business man. An outdoors man. A man of action and ability. A man who knew his own mind. A man with strong opinions. And Peter was of the opinion there wasn’t anything in this world that could separate him from Jesus. On a Thursday evening, when Jesus met with his disciples for a special Passover supper, and Jesus declared, “You will all fall away this night,” Peter wanted Jesus to understand he was not to be included in the “all” whom Jesus spoke about. Peter told Jesus, in no uncertain terms, “Even if they all fall away and are caused to stumble and distrust and desert You, yet I will not do so.” (Mark 14: 29, Amplified Bible).
Peter thought he knew himself better than Jesus did. However, Jesus turned to Peter and warned him that later that evening, Peter would deny Jesus three times. What was Peter’s response? He vehemently informed Jesus he would never deny Him. Peter even went further, “Even if it should be necessary for me to die with You, I will not deny or disown You!” This was Peter’s promise to Jesus. However, just a few hours later, we find Peter, who thought he knew himself so well and bragged about the way he would stick up for Jesus, deciding, when the chips were down, to “only follow Him (Jesus) at a distance.” (Matthew 26: 58).
It was as though Peter had one foot following Jesus and one foot going in a different direction – and what is so instructive to you and me is that Peter thought he knew exactly what he would do and how he would react in a moment of crisis.
What happened? The Bible tells us just a few hours later Peter not only denied he knew Jesus, he also denied having ever met Him and began to swear against Jesus and himself.
Let’s take a moment to look at what happened to Peter. First, he denied he was Jesus’ follower by following at a distance. Then he denied he was a follower of Jesus by the words he spoke. Now, guilt sets in! He realizes he’s blown it. But, he thinks he’s gone too far so he keeps up the charade and tells everyone that he has never even met Jesus – ever. He doesn’t even know the Man. The guilt caused by his denial served only to push him farther down the road to ruin. Peter went to a new level of low! When someone said Peter talked like Jesus, Peter began to swear, using language he thought would certainly separate him from any association with the kind and gentle Jesus.
And then, the Bible tells us, a rooster began to crow, and the self-confident Peter who thought he knew himself so well, realized that Jesus was indeed correct. “And Peter remembered Jesus’ words…and he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 75). A moment of self-realization. A moment when the truth about himself hit Peter in the face like a glass of cold water.
The most wonderful part of this story, is that while Jesus lay in the tomb, Peter had plenty of time to search his soul. The false sense of confidence that led him to deny Jesus, the false guilt that led him to continue down a path of denial, all served to help him realize his great dependence on Jesus. It also helped Peter to recognize what you and I need to see, too. And this is that no one understands us like Jesus. He sees what we are – and more importantly, who we can be through His power.
In the book, Living Prayer, author Anthony Bloom has this enlightening perspective:
“At rock bottom we are made in the image of God…stripping (us) is very much like the cleaning of an ancient, beautiful wall painting, or of a painting by a great master that was painted over in the course of the centuries by tasteless people who had intruded upon the real beauty that had been created by the master. To begin with, the more we clean, the more things disappear, and it seems to us that we have created a mess where there was at least a certain amount of beauty; perhaps not much, but some beauty. And then we begin to discover the real beauty which the great master has put into his painting; we see the misery, then the mess in between, but at the same time we have a preview of the authentic beauty. And we discover that what we are is a poor person who needs God; but not God to fill the gap – God to be met.”
This is the God Peter met when Jesus rose from the grave and told Mary Magdalene to go tell my disciples, and Peter, that I am alive. Peter, the friend who denied Jesus, was the friend Jesus forgave. The same friend Peter chose to spend the rest of his life serving. All because Jesus helped Peter understand who he really was and what he really could be.
“A humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.”
Thomas á Kempis
Prayer of Self-Acceptance
Help me to understand who I am.
May I realize that many times I have Peter’s mouth – when what I really need is to have Your heart.
Let me accept both my weaknesses and strengths, recognizing that You can take me, where I am weak, and make me strong…and where I am strong You can use these God-given abilities for the purpose You have for my life.
Don’t let me ever think I am so capable, I will never fall…and don’t let my failures loom as stumbling blocks, keeping me from being everything You intend for me to be.
I pray that the guilt I feel will not push me down into the pit of denial but will push me toward Your hand that lifts.
Like Peter, may I declare that through Your power, all things that are suited and needed in my life will be accomplished by my knowledge of You and Your glory and excellence.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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