Apr. 20, 2017

Destructive Denial

Having just celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, many of us are familiar with Peter's denial of Jesus during this horrible succession of events. Peter had been an ardent disciple of Jesus and His teachings. At times, Peter was passionate, intense and wholly committed to the message that Jesus taught. But at the time when Peter and the others should have been alert and aware they were tired and oblivious.

Peter and the remaining ten disciples were unprepared for the chaotic and unlawful events that were about to take place. This demonic whirlwind caught Peter in it's gnarly grasp and slammed him against the wall of Destructive Denial. The days that followed Peter's denial were probably the most miserable of his entire life. That weakness in him destroyed his peace and wrecked his confidence. Peter submitted to fear instead of resisting and refuting it.

Here is one of the first indications that there is a problem. At a crucial point in the ministry, Peter fell asleep during a very important prayer meeting.

Matthew 26: 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Later the bible records that in an effort to protect Jesus, Peter resorts to violence and assaults a man with a deadly weapon.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

As the story continues Peter is seen behaving as a liar and a coward.

John 18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 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.

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26 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?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

In John 19 during the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Peter is nowhere to be found. He is frightened and hiding. Undoubtedly, this may have been the lowest point in Peter's life. What does a person do after experiencing such a gut-wrenching blow? After Jesus is buried the disciples are still stunned and dazed. They don't know what to do without their Leader. Nothing went as they thought it would. I'm sure they wondered, "What do we do now?"

As the narrative unfolds in John 21 Peter has decided to take up fishing again (and doing it in the nude). He isn’t very successful and doesn’t recognize Jesus’ voice or appearance when Jesus calls to them from the shore. This shows that Peter is out of step spiritually and naturally. He knows fishing but isn't prospering in it. So his natural ability is off. He spent three years with Jesus but after only three days apart he doesn't recognize Jesus' resurrected form or sound. So spiritually he is not in sync.

As many people do after a moral or critical failure, Peter returned to what was familiar and comfortable. So much had happened that  he didn’t expect. He was disappointed and sorrowful because of the ways in which he conducted himself: Fighting, Lying, Denying, Hiding.

So he returnd to something that he believed would help him get his bearings again. He went to a place where he had succeeded in the past. A place where he can reclaim the hard working, industrious, honest man he used to be. He went to where he felt stable and confident.  He went to a place where he knew what to do, what to expect and what was expected of him. He returned to his ground zero, his starting place where he could recapture sure footing and hopefully advance from there. He went back to the last place (before his life was upended and transformed) where he felt normal, confident and sane. He returned to a place where he didn’t feel like a disappointment and a failure. He went fishing.

The fellowship Peter thought was lost with Jesus or at least was severely damaged was restored according to John 21:10-17. Peter never lost the love of Jesus but because of Peter’s denial he was uncertain of how or if Jesus would receive him. Peter repented and the Lord made sure Peter knew he was forgiven and still had a mighty ministry assignment to fulfill. Jesus instructed Peter to feed those who belonged to Jesus, were dependent on Him,  those who love Him and follow Him.

Next time: The Art of Restoration!