April 30, 2007
“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb…. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen…. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” John 20. 3, 6-7, 9-10
When we talk about Peter and the other disciple going to the tomb, we always talk about their confusion, their lack of understanding and then their joy. All of those apply, but have you ever imagined yourself as Peter on that morning, standing in the tomb, looking at burial linens and cloths and wondering? Would confusion really be your only response?
I kind of doubt it. The human heart and mind are so incredibly complex. Peter had denied Jesus, not once but three times. This is the same Peter who swore allegiance, promised that he loved Jesus the most of all, and bragged that he would follow Jesus, even to death if necessary. Then he finds himself standing in the empty tomb, looking at the grave cloths as if the Body should still be there. Just imagine everything you would have thought if you were standing there, and then you have a pretty good idea of what Peter was thinking.
Certainly, Peter was confused and didn’t understand. The Body was gone, but, to where or by whom? How did they get the grave cloths to lie like that? Beneath the practical questions, however, were flashes of hope, anger, excitement, fear and more. Maybe Jesus was risen, but maybe someone had taken Him? Maybe the plotting of the Sanhedrin was not finished with Jesus death? Then would have come the dread.
Surely, Peter had been grieving since the Crucifixion, but he also had to be wallowing in guilt: his last act of discipleship to the Lord was that of denial. However, with Jesus dead and buried, Peter could enjoy all of his repentance and self-loathing without the humiliation of actually having to face the One he offended. Is that not human nature to a tee? Guilt and repentance are so much easier on our own, when we do not really have to make good on our apology. No doubt, Peter was hopeful, excited and thrilled at the possibility the Lord was alive. Yet, as great as the defeat of death and the salvation of the world may be, you know Peter dreaded facing Jesus again. Wouldn’t you, under the circumstances?
But the worst – the thing not one of us would ever admit we think – was: ‘Dadgum! If only I’d had the backbone to follow Him, if only I’d had the guts to go through all of that, I could have been raised up too! Dangit! It could have been me too!’ We have no way of knowing what would have happened if Peter had been crucified also, and it’s a moot point: Peter was not the Son of God and therefore, not able to effect salvation. But that’s not the point here. The point is how completely self-centered the human heart and mind are. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5.19), and Peter was standing there, hoping Jesus had risen, dreading facing Him, and wishing he had been resurrected along with Jesus. The selfish desire for selfless glory – an extraordinary opportunity missed for lack of courage. Ah, the nobility of human motives…
There is no record of Jesus confronting Peter with his failure. God is like that many times. Peter knew he had failed Jesus, and he knew that Jesus knew, even knew in advance that he was spineless and afraid. Jesus also let Peter stew in his guilt and denial for several days before reinstating him the morning He ate breakfast with them on the beach. (John 21)
Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Jesus’ word for love is a form of agape. The question, then, is: ‘do you love Me with a selfless, unconditional love?’ Peter responded with, “Lord, You know I love You.” Peter’s word for love is a form of philio – affection or fondness. His answer to Jesus was: ‘Lord, we’re buddies, friends – always!’
The depths of human beings are a veritable morass of selfish, petty, conflicting urges and desires we seldom understand and often do not even acknowledge. The Resurrection power for daily life stands on a beach and lets past failures simply fall away. They are gone. And if the best you have to offer is a self-serving love, then Christ accepts that and beckons you forward to do as He did and love as He loved.
We think we are not good enough to be a real disciple, and we are right. God knows we are guilty. God always knows. Our hearts, private as we think they are, are an open book to God. Terrifying thought, really. Still, He lets the past drop away, and He invites us to His future.
If nothing is really hidden from God, if He knows us better than we know ourselves, and if He ignores the past and calls us to follow Him in His Resurrection power every day, why would you ever choose to hang on a life of guilt, what-ifs, and selfishness that leads to dread? We do it all the time.
The opportunity for glory comes to us over and over again, but it comes not by our own power, courage or wisdom. Those are opportunities better missed. The opportunity for glory comes in the misshapen, misguided but sincere willingness to do what Christ asks us to do, when we let Him ignore the past and accept us into His service as His disciple. The opportunity is unceasingly offered, and we miss it only by our own choice.
In Christ –
© 2007 Servants’ Feast Ministry
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