Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday: The One Who...

The story of Good Friday and Easter is big. We’ve got a lot of people involved. We’ve got villains and allies, prestigious government officials and a rowdy crowd... Some are just barely mentioned, and some play huge role. Among that cast of characters are the disciples- a couple in particular who are right in the thick of it- specifically: John and Peter. 

First, we have John- He’s actually known as the one who Jesus loved. That’s how he’s referred to in much of scripture- and it’s quite the claim to fame.

Then we have Peter- And, of course Jesus loved him too- but as you’ll see- he ends up earning a different reputation- which could probably be summed up as: The One Who Messes Up A Lot. 

Through all the scriptures, you can see Peter’s true heart for Jesus, but you can also see his mistakes; his really good intentions, and his spectacular shortcomings.

So- there is a ton to learn from everyone in the account of Easter…but for me at least- Peter might be the most relatable of them all. His story, my story, and maybe your story…are messy. Complicated. Real. So let’s take a look at Good Friday, through the eyes of Peter: The One Who…is a lot like so many of us.

So to start off, let’s look at the beginning of Peter’s role in Good Friday- this part could be called: 

Peter: The One Who Promised To Stay Loyal 
Mark 14:27-31
Jesus is hanging out with his disciples, and he says: All of you will desert me. Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter- this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

You hear that passion? It says he’s emphatic about his love for Jesus. When Jesus declares that they will all desert him, Peter can’t believe it. Jesus- his friend- his perfect friend who knows all, and has NEVER lied- says to him point-blank: “I tell you the truth…” And still Peter says “No way!” He can’t imagine denying his relationship with Jesus. He’s even willing to die if he has to.

I admire that! I’m not always that sure of myself. I’m not always that devoted. But Peter is committed!

But what happens next?  What’s the next headline in Peter’s story? 

Peter: The One Who Denied Jesus 

We’ll pick up the story in the book of Matthew...Jesus is going to the high priest’s house to face a trial for crimes he didn't commit. Peter follows along, but he’s not allowed in the gates, so he hangs out around the fire with the servants. 
Matthew 26:69-75
Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. (That’s one) Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again, Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. (Two...) A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” (Three) And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
And THAT is when he realizes: Oh no.. I really messed this up. It’s happening just the way Jesus said it would. 

And I can imagine just what it was like for him…people start asking questions, it starts getting a little heated, and before he knows it, he has done the exact opposite of what he swore he would do: he’s completely, and repeatedly denied Jesus.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? You feel so confident in something- oh I’ll never do that, or oh of course I’ll do this… And then you get in the moment and you cave. You bail. You panic… You break the promises you made to yourself or do or say things you never thought you would...

I've been there. I can relate. But the part that really floors me, is how extreme it all is. Earlier- he’s willing to die for Jesus. He’s all in. Now? He claims he doesn’t even know him. All because some people questioned him. He got scared, and wanted to hide any association to Jesus that might get him into trouble.

And unfortunately, this becomes a big part of what Peter is known for. 
But…there’s more. We can call this part: 

Peter: The One Who Ran Away 

Continuing in Matthew 26 verse 75 tells us as soon as he heard the rooster crow, Jesus’ words flashed through his mind. And he went away, weeping bitterly. 

And after that…we actually don’t hear much about Peter for a little while. He’s absent from a big portion of the Good Friday story because he left. 

He went from: 
-confessing his undying loyalty
-to denying Jesus (just as Jesus predicted he would)
-to running away and missing the whole thing 

Jesus is now being put on trial with the Roman governor. He’s being mocked, and flogged, and sentenced to crucifixion. The mob is screaming at him, the soldiers are stealing his clothes, and spitting in his face…and Peter isn’t even there.

He let his own shame take over- preventing him from being there when Jesus needed him most.


Ok…so that’s it? That’s Peter’s legacy? After years spent listening to Jesus’ teachings, witnessing His miracles, following Him faithfully, these are the things Peter is defined by?

  • Peter: The one who disappointed and denied Jesus
  • Peter: The one who ran away and hid in shame.
  • Peter: the one who had great intentions, but still just never quite got there... 
Well...without the cross- yeah. That might have been it...
Because Peter was RIGHT THERE for THE event that shaped all of eternity...but his sin was also right there through it all. He meant well. He tried hard. But no matter what, he was still just a screwed-up, screw-up.

But that’s why Jesus came. He came to seek the lost, to love the broken, to forgive the sinners… He came to be Peter’s best friend, even if, even when, Peter failed him, fled from him, and betrayed him. He came for Peter just as he came for every one of us messy, imperfect people, because He loves us beyond our wildest comprehension.

But it doesn’t stop there. Because Jesus didn’t just come for us...He died for us. He willingly submitted to death- a brutal, humiliating death, that He didn’t deserve- so that we can have eternal life.

And that’s what tonight is about---remembering the drama and the intensity of that sacrifice, and reflecting on the implications of this story. So let’s do that...even if just for a few quiet moments. Let’s learn from Peter’s missteps and stay present, with our eyes fixed on Jesus- even when it’s hard, even when it’s dark. Let’s sit in the weight of the reality that Peter, and each of us are: 

The One Who Put Him on The Cross. 

But then...let’s hold fast to the hope that we know is coming...fulfillment of the complete story- which brings joy, redemption, and ultimately- the promise of a new identity which is made available to every one of us. Let us all be known as: 

The One Who Jesus Saved 

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