Our failure and disgrace are often a prelude to glory. Before the nourishing rains come, there must be clouds. Peter had clouds of disgrace in his life. He had even been called “Satan” by his Lord. After “assuring” Jesus that He wouldn’t have to be killed:
· He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)
Perhaps worst of all, after Jesus prophesied that His disciples would all abandon Him at the crucifixion, Peter disagreed and disgraced himself beyond all of the other Apostles:
· Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’”… Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:31-35)
It was bad enough that Peter had contradicted the Jesus’ prophecy, but he also boasted that he was more faithful than the other Apostles: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!”
What conceit! Such arrogance is an impediment to the purpose of our Lord to build His Church. While humility is a glue that connects, arrogance pushes people away. It boasts that “I am better than you.” While humility enables us to focus on Jesus, arrogance places the focus back upon the self.
Peter had not been trusting in the Lord and in His words. Overriding Jesus’ words, Peter then exalted Himself for a second time “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”
When we are assured that we can stand and prevail on our own, we are setting ourselves up for a massive fall (1 Cor. 10:12-13). We are trusting in ourselves and not in our Savior.
Peter fell massively, denying His Lord three times, just as Jesus had prophesied:
· And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75)
However, Peter needed this bitter lesson. Although His failures had plunged him into self-despair, it was a necessary lesson to prepare him for service. Paul had to learn the same lesson:
· For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
We all must unlearn self-trust. Without this, we will never be able to trust in the Lord. Without learning to despair in ourselves and our own adequacy, we will never learn about the all-sufficiency of our Lord:
· Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
We are inadequate, self-centered, blind, and esteem the things of man over the things of God. In our arrogance, we like to think that “I got what it takes.” Such confidence must be burned away to leave room for God-confidence, as any metal that must go through the fires of refinement to remove the impurities. Peter had to die to himself before he was able to hear what Jesus had to say.
After Jesus had appeared to His Apostles by the sea of Gallilee, He reminded Peter of his boast that even if the others would abandon Jesus, he, Peter, would never abandon Him:
· When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these [do]?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)
This time, Peter didn’t take the bait. He didn’t say, “Yes, I love you more than these do.” However, Jesus pressed on further, reminding Peter of his three instances of betrayal. Three times, He asked Peter “Do you love me?” Reminded of his terrible betrayal, Peter grieved instead of boasting. However, his failure and disgrace had now readied him to receive the Savior’s threefold calling to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-18). He had learned something that we all have to continue to learn – that it’s all about our Savior. If He is for us, no one, not even our inadequacies, can be against us (Romans 8:81-32).
It is only in brokenness that growth can take place. For a tree to grow, the new growth must crack its way through the bark, scarring the tree, leaving deep twisted lacerations in the bark. But there is no other way for a tree to grow. There must be tearing and there must be scars.
When we look at the bark up-close, it is rough and contorted, but when we see it from afar, it has a beauty all its own. We too need to see ourselves from afar, through the eyes of our Lord:
· Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb”… having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:9-11)
For now, we cannot see ourselves as “the wife of the Lamb.” We cannot handle such a vision:
· See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
We cannot see ourselves as we are in God’s sight. This is why we must walk in hope according to what He has written to us:
· For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)
We need to “see” the unseen. Only by virtue of this kind of embrace of the unseen can we endure. However, we must also “see” His battered Bride in the same way. Our Lord loves His Church. We must do the same.