John 18:17 (the message)
The young woman who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?”
He said, “No, I’m not.”
Peter, once walking on water and hanging on every word of Jesus, is now whispering the most heart-shattering words of his life. Jesus has been arrested and Peter wants inside the courtyard of the home in which He is being held. The doorkeeper recognizes Peter and although he may have relished this attention before, he certainly doesn’t this night. Being associated with Jesus in this courtyard moment was a risk. A grave risk.
So Peter denies Jesus.
As I read this verse earlier today my heart paused. I thought of how these simple words (which Peter would repeat in various forms twice more before the night was over) were life-changing at a pivitol moment of need.
Because more than anything, Peter needed to be emptied. Of himself.
Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. He told Peter so! Yet as Jesus looked ahead I believe He saw past the courtyard door to Pentecost, the day Peter would be filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in languages he had never learned or spoken before! I believe Jesus saw Peter, this time unafraid and unashamed, praising God and declaring His mighty works for all to hear and understand in “tongues” he did not himself understand! I believe Jesus heard past Peter’s broken-down denials to the splashing sounds of 3,000 men being baptized and placing their trust in Him as Peter, filled with God’s Spirit, spoke the truth so boldly (Acts chapter 2).
Before he could be filled, however, Peter had to be emptied. And before he could mend, Peter had to be broken.
I empathize with Peter at the courtyard door. He wants to follow Jesus in and yet he’s afraid of the risk. It was exciting to step out of the boat and walk with Jesus on the water. It was amazing to collect 12 baskets of leftovers after feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children) with a little fish and bread. It probably felt surreal to be on that mountain witnessing Jesus speak with Moses and Elijah, His face and clothing filling with light. But now, now a pivotal moment has come. And Peter fails.
We know this is not the end. We have hindsight but remember, Peter did not. After all he had experienced with Jesus, Peter denied being His disciple. I can truly only imagine the crushing weight of shame that came to rest upon his heart. Especially as Jesus was crucified. Jesus. Long-awaited Messiah. Son of God. Soon to be dead on a cross like a common criminal and Peter has to live with the gut-twisting memory…No, I’m not.
I believe Peter’s denial broke him. And in breaking, the things in Peter that would have prevented Him from being used so extraordinarily by God gave way. In what we often see as Peter’s most tragic and shame filled moments, I see God at work. My Pastor refers to “defining moments” in life. Moments you look back on later in life and clearly see where things took a turn. I believe Peter’s denial was a defining moment. And Peter must have been a pretty hard case because he needed three of them! Smile…how encouraging for us today.
Maybe you are like me and can easily identify choices that were indeed life-defining. Maybe the weight is still a burden on your soul but you refuse to break. Refuse to be emptied. May I share with you another “MattFry-ism” that sticks with this ordinary girl?
God will take your mess and make it your message.
He is a redeemer, after all. A rescuer. It’s what He does. And like a flow of water finds the path of least resistance, His Spirit looks for and longs to fill a life with ever-decreasing resistance.
Don’t be afraid to break. To let choices, perhaps from years ago even, finally break your heart wide open. Let the pain, regret and pride of life drain away. Our God longs to fill you with more and better love than you can imagine or ask or dream. Jesus will put the pieces back together and as with Peter, what He creates is a life ready to be filled and spilling over.
I promise you from Pentecost on Peter wasn’t thinking about that night at the courtyard door. It absolutely didn’t matter anymore. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He very intentionally said to Peter three times, Feed My sheep. Do you see the significance? Jesus redeemed each of Peter’s denials with purpose.
I used to be quite afraid to live broken. I still am sometimes and certainly resist some days. But having tasted regret-redemption, my mess becoming my message, I’m more afraid of what I’ll miss out on if I don’t.
Lord Jesus, I lift up to you now any person who reads this post and struggles with regret. Please touch their hearts so deeply and intimately they finally see Your love has no conditions, no bounds, no time limits. Jesus, please help them to see how willing to break You were for us. Just so You could have us, hold us, heal us. Lord, please don’t let this be just another post from mixedmotives. Let this be a defining moment because of Your presence touching hearts…a moment someone will let that tear slide down their cheek…a moment someone will whisper a simple prayer of surrender to You today…a moment someone finally allows the wall around their heart to crumble and instantly feels Your kind and gentle hand picking up the pieces. Help them to not only know mentally, but really grasp in their soul, how deep and powerfully great Your love really is. In the name of Jesus.