The Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord... and he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter was so eager to follow Jesus. Just last night he wanted Jesus to wash all of him, not just his feet but even his hair.  He heard the command to love one another as Jesus had loved them.  And when Jesus was taken away, Peter still followed, at a distance at least. 

But soon someone associated him with Jesus, and something other than love kicked in.  Fear rose up in him.  And he acted out of self-preservation when he was challenged.  He denied even knowing Jesus, and when his first denial didn’t take, he denied Jesus again and then again. 

And Jesus heard him.  Jesus had already told him he would do such a thing.  And so when the cock crowed, Jesus looked at Peter and Peter was convicted, and ashamed, and he went out and wept bitter tears because he had failed Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples that their job was to love as Jesus loves.  To be willing to be vulnerable and to be steadfast in their faith that God was with them no matter what.  He told Peter that the devil wanted to sift Peter like wheat and to pray that he would not come into a time of trial.  And yet he did.  And he failed miserably.  Peter gave into fear and took the path of self-preservation instead of the way of self-giving.

Self-preservation is something we all know about.  It’s the impulse that stops us from harming ourselves.  It’s the thing that causes us to get out of the way when we sense danger is near.  But it also is the impulse to disingenuously shield ourselves by pretending we didn’t do what we did or say what we said instead of taking our lumps.  It’s the impulse to protect ourselves from taint by association, from getting involved with things that make us feel uneasy or afraid, to protect ourselves instead of standing up for someone who is in trouble or who cannot stand up for themselves.

It’s an instinct.  And we do it almost without thinking.  Certainly that’s what Peter did.

And then as soon as he realized what he had done, he was filled with shame and remorse.  He repented, there and then.

Repentance is pretty hard for me, and maybe for you, too.

Truly, most of us don’t want to make mistakes in the first place.  That’s one of the most common ways in which we practice self-preservation.  We don’t take any risks, we backpedal, we don’t get involved.  And if we do mess up, we are likely to try to cover it up somehow.  Because we are still practicing self-preservation.

But we are going to make mistakes if we are alive.  We are going to mess up.  We may even mess up big time.  Really big time. 

And when we do, we might take our cue from Peter.  Peter had to look at his failure and really see it, and then he repented.  And so can we.  We can have faith that even when we fail, we can be restored, as Peter will be restored.  We can grow, we can become stronger and our faith become deeper, we can let go of fear, we can forgive ourselves as we have been forgiven.  We can go on.  Jesus lets Peter know of his failure, but he does not abandon Peter because of it. 

If we are human, we are going to fail.  We are going to deny Jesus in small things and in huge ones.  We are going to give in to our instinct of self-preservation and deny him when things get scary for us.  And we are going to need to repent that failure, that denial.  We are going to need to weep bitter tears ourselves.

Because only then, only after we admit that and how we have failed, can we make room in ourselves for reconciliation and restoration. Only then can we risk loving as Jesus loves us. 

And so let us repent, and return to the Lord.


Perpetua said…
Thank you, Penny.
Thanks, Kay! Hope all is well in Conyers!
Thank you, Perpetua. You will get to Easter before me, timewise. Blessings!