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"Peter said, 'Master, I'm ready for anything with you. I'd go to jail for you. I'd die for you!' "Jesus said, 'I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.'" Luke 22:33-34 (The Message).
We like to pick Peter out for being cocksure of himself but I don't think we are any different. There was no problem with his sincerity. He loved the Master and would willingly have given his life for him -- in his mind -- but, in the real situation, at the mercy of ruthless Roman soldiers, it was a little different.
Peter did not know what it was like to be in that kind of situation. Perhaps even more important was the fact that dying for Jesus then would be pointless. He would be dying for a friend but not as a witness to the truth to which he was testifying. His opportunity would come later when he would give his life for what he believed and preached, that Jesus is the Son of God and that He rose from the dead and is the author of eternal salvation for all who believe in Him.
Peter had a whole lot of living to do and learning the truth about Jesus and the resurrection because that became the pivot of his life and message, and the reason for his obedience and courage, even to the point of dying the same cruel death as his Master.
Peter did not even know that his brash words were prophetic. He did indeed go to jail and to death for Jesus but it was because of his choice to follow Him and not because he was the victim of Jewish leaders' prejudice. Peter learned his lesson well. He had to go through his own 'Gethsemane', humiliating and painful as it was, to be equipped to be an apostle of the good news.
Our own failures and weaknesses seem so drastic and final that we think that they disqualify us from being Jesus' disciples, and we run from Him in guilt and shame. God has a very different view of our failures. These are the very experiences that equip us to be witnesses for Him.
To what are we really witnessing? Not to our strengths! If we never failed, we would not need the grace which God freely gives to us because of Jesus. This is the marvel and miracle of the gospel. Jesus came to earth because of who we are. There is nothing in us to commend us to God. God's verdict: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV).
At best we are foul. "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6 (NIV).
Jesus did everything necessary to rescue us from our pitiful condition. He paid our debt, washed us clean and presented us to God as His own beloved sons and daughters and gives us the grace to live for Him in His strength, not ours.
We are fools if we think we can do it by ourselves. Peter learned that and so must we if we are to be witnesses of how big He is, and not of how big we are. It only takes our considered decision to follow Him to bring God's grace into action that energises us to do what we have chosen to do. The choice is ours; the strength is His and we do it together.
We have a union with the Holy Spirit who lives in us so close that, whenever we decide to obey, His power activates our choice and we do it through Him. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me, the life I live in the body, live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 (NIV).
Is that not a better option than being self-confident and falling into a deep, dark hole of guilt and shame because I thought I could do it by myself?
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