I used to despise Peter and his cowardly denial of Christ on the eve of His crucifixion. What a spineless wimp, I thought. Said he would be faithful to Jesus even if he had to die for Him. And then to the very first person who asked if he was associated with Jesus, Peter hastily said a resounding no.
He couldn’t keep his word. And he was in denial about the one person to whom he had pledged his life over the last three years. Who wouldn’t despise such a coward?
Yet – as I read the story again just recently, I realized there was a shocking resemblance between Peter and someone else I know … myself. And I was sickened by the realization.
Because the picture in the pages of John couldn’t be clearer.
There stood Peter, just outside – just close enough to feel like he was still “supporting” Jesus, but just far enough away that he didn’t have to actively share in his sufferings.
He could pretend like he was just a bystander, partaking in the enemy’s fire, while all the while, denying loyalty to the One who was giving up everything for him at that very moment.
We are Peter.
We are foolish wretches, wanting to get close, but not too close.
Wanting the warmth of the fire, but not the searing purification of its flames of trial.
Wanting social recognition and status, but not the uncomfortable stigma that comes from unpopular claims.
We are in denial, even as we know that what we deny is the only thing that can truly give us all the hope.
And it is galling to me to realize how I’ve become fine with complacency and quiet, tucked away views. I’m so ready to take the easy road, stay in my comfortable corner, and avoid any and all conflict.
Suddenly I realize what a tangled web of deceit can be woven in our own hearts when we lie to ourselves – when we pretend like we’re living for the cause of Christ, but really we’re living for the cause of ourselves.
And that’s when we see that we’ve failed to live up to our own expectations and promises. We’ve become the opposite of all we wanted to be. We’ve fallen short of the promises we made, and the person we said we would be.
For the girl who likes her picture-perfect, squeaky-clean life, admitting denial is hard – because denial allows her to pretend like all is well and there are no problems. That there is no mess beneath the surface.
I’ve been really good at the game of pretend my whole life.
But those who pretend will eventually have their façades pierced and their disguises torn aside. The truth will eventually reveal the desperate lies and the fake attempts at saving themselves.
And all they’re left with is the sound of their voice echoing the words, “No, I don’t know this man.”
But still – the Savior of the world, looks upon us with the kindest of forgiving eyes and stands in our place for the punishment we so justly deserve.
When Christ turned His gaze upon Peter after the rooster crowed the third time, guilt surged through him as bitter tears welled to the surface – the weight of all his failures weighing down upon his shoulders.
That same guilt can weigh our own hearts down, crushing our spirits and convicting us of our denial.
Yet for this He died. He takes our guilt and our shame and our aching failures and washes it all clean through His sacrifice.
It is because of this very failure that He came to earth to die for us. It is because of our inadequacy that we need the Savior more than anything else. It is because we can never keep our promises that we must trust in the One whose promises are far more secure than anything else in life.
This Good Friday, I’m ready to bow the knee and admit my failure to measure up to my promises. I’m ready to own up to my denial – my attempts to cover up my sin, my complacency, my idolatry, my longings for another besides Christ, my cheap attempts to achieve righteousness on my own.
I’m ready to bare my heart to the One who knows it better than anyone else – and I’m ready to still my heart and soak in the Gospel message –
–that the One hanging on the tree that Friday so long ago died for my sins and rose again to give my stubborn heart another chance – new life in Him.
Because the best news is that God isn’t finished with our stories when we blow it. Look at Peter – Christ restored the relationship after His resurrection and sent him on a mission to establish the church in His name.
He can always redeem our foolishness and our wandering hearts.
How great is our God.