by Wes Blackburn
Certainly, there are a lot of different things we could observe in today’s reading through John 18. Certainly, we see the storyline quickly advancing toward the heartbreak and apparent hopelessness of Good Friday. But as I read and observed today, something else stood out at me.
There are several different people in the storyline of the Bible that we meet and I just naturally identify with. I track right alongside the doubts of Gideon. I can empathize with the legalistic righteousness of Paul’s pre-Christian life and even at times the incredible depression espoused by Jeremiah in the book that bears his name.
But I can also identify with Peter. Here he was, one of the leaders of the disciples. He was a man of conviction and passion. Peter doesn’t strike me as a man who did things halfway; it was all or nothing. These are all good qualities, but oftentimes they could play out differently. Peter was at times hot-headed. He often spoke without thinking and embarrassed himself. While his life after the cross would become one worth noting, his life before was full of foibles, faux pas, failures, and mistakes.
John 18 is no exception. Peter makes his grand entrance into the story here by cutting a man’s ear off, only to be sharply rebuked by Jesus. His remark to Peter indicates that Peter clearly didn’t understand what was going on. But if that wasn’t enough, Peter’s next entrance into the story would not be one marked by bravery or heroism, but instead cowardice and fear. When questioned by a mere servant girl whether or not he was a disciple of Jesus, Peter replied he was not. Only a few moments later by the fire, Peter would be asked again by two different people. Each time, he would lie and deny he had any sort of relationship with the man who only a few hours earlier he would have labeled as a best friend. And with that, the rooster would crow.
I can only imagine what filtered through Peter’s mind at that moment. No doubt, incredible guilt, shame, and remorse filled his heart and soul. Only moments ago, he had probably experienced utter rage and anger at his fellow disciple, Judas, when he betrayed Jesus into the hands of his captors for thirty pieces of silver. Yet, here stood Peter, guilty of the same. At Jesus’ hour of greatest need, Peter didn’t step in and help. He sat idly by, denying that he even knew the man. It was hardly behavior of anyone who would label themselves a disciple, let alone one of the “inner circle.”
But that’s also where the story of God does a U-Turn. We get a chance to see the rest of the story. At the end of John, we’ll see Peter re-instated by Jesus. Later on in the book of Acts, we’ll see Peter take an active role as the point leader for the Christian church. He’d preach the first ever sermon where hundreds and thousands would come to accept Christ. He’d be the leader of a movement that would make it around the entire known world. Redemption would come. Even in the midst of a dark and difficult season for Peter, God would still use him to change lives and be a part of his work in the world.
That’s a great reminder for me, because in my dark and difficult seasons where I screw up and miss the point, I tend to want to stay there. But the story of Peter shows us something different. Redemption is possible. Healing will come. Forgiveness and love win. And that is a story worth celebrating.