Peter’s Very Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days when seemingly nothing transpired the way you had hoped? Of course! We all have. How much worse are calamities of the self-inflicted variety, when pride prevents us from recognizing our limitations, accepting others’ correction, or soliciting their help! Consider, then, Peter’s very bad day. On arguably the most pivotal night in human history, this disciple refused to let Jesus wash his feet, naively vowed unequaled loyalty and then argued when foretold otherwise, slept when commanded to pray, and severed the ear of the high priest’s servant—all before denying Jesus three times! “And he went out and wept bitterly.”1 Who wouldn’t? Peter had experienced Spirit-led moments before, as when confessing Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,”2 but this was not one of them.

It is easy to point to Peter’s foibles and somehow feel better about ourselves by comparison or to find curious relief in a misery-loves-company sort of way. Peter’s very bad day, however, was a real-life illustration of the human condition, for we are by nature “unspiritual”3—unwilling and unable to lead a godly life in our own wisdom and strength. The apostle Paul’s confession could just as well have been Peter’s and ours: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”4 Without the Spirit, our mind is “hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”5

We find no relief in Peter’s perils, for they only parallel our own. The hope we take from Peter is in his God, for God does not abandon us to the hopeless task of changing our sinful nature as if to “fix” ourselves, rather He fills us with His Spirit and stirs our hearts to love Him and trust His ways. Wrote a wiser Peter, long since restored, “[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”6 Then we cease striving in our natural power, and we start thriving in God’s Spirit. He calls us to this, and He causes it to happen. Praise His name.

Father, you are good, and you seek only good for us. Deliver us from the temptation to please you in our own wisdom and strength, and be pleased to fill us to with your Spirit. You are our life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 26:75 ESV
2 Matthew 16:16 ESV
3 Romans 7:14 NIV
4 Romans 7:18 ESV
5 Romans 8:7,8 ESV
6 2 Peter 1:3,4

One Big Beatitude

No doubt, Thomas knew a beatitude when he heard one. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had declared rich blessings for those who pursue God’s ways amid the hardships and temptations of life: theirs is the presence of inner joy and the promise of Divine provision. And now having shown Himself to this hold-out disciple who would not otherwise believe in His resurrection, Jesus added one more beatitude: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”1 It was the very definition of faith, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”2 It seems so counterintuitive, doesn’t it, that, though anyone would be awestruck in the bodily presence of the risen Savior, it is actually we who believe without seeing, who are blessed!

Why is “not seen” such a vital part of our journey; why does God prize faith so highly among us and infuse it with joy? When we trust only what we see, then belief remains on our terms, as if to subject God to our demands. Faith, though, submits us to what is true—God’s rule, a Kingdom beyond our control. It is how Mary, perplexed at the news she would birth the long-awaited Messiah, nevertheless replied, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”3 Too, conditional belief doubts God’s character, as though He were like us, not always to be trusted. But faith rests in God’s goodness, wisdom, power and love, as did Sarah, who “by faith … received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”4 Then also, if “God is spirit,”5 how can we grasp Him with natural senses that live only to see the grave? In faith, however, it is the soul that looks upon the eternal God through the clarity of the gospel sent “to open [our] eyes, so that [we] may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that [we] may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus].”6

Faith—itself “the gift of God”7—is, in Peter’s words, “more precious than gold.”8 We can see why! Faith moves us from our kingdom to God’s Kingdom, from our power to His power, and we look upon His glory, even as we share in it. Peter continues, “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”9 Blessed are we, indeed.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. (1 Chronicles 29:11)

1 John 20:29 ESV
2 Hebrews 11:1 ESV
3 Luke 1:38 NIV
4 Hebrews 11:11 ESV
5 John 4:24 ESV
6 Acts 26:18 ESV
7 Ephesians 2:8 ESV
8 1 Peter 1:7 ESV
9 1 Peter 1:8, 9 ESV

A Moment and a Lifetime

“Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”1 Jesus, to Thomas.

During my teenage years, many of my friends found a deeply satisfying faith in Jesus Christ. Personally, I believed God existed, and mentally assented to Christian teaching, but whatever rest my friends had found in Christ, I had not. How deeply I longed for the inner peace and joy that emanated from their soul! So, I kept coming back. To Bible studies, I kept coming back. To church, I kept coming back. To seeking God through prayer, I kept coming back. It would be ten long years before I trusted in Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and in retrospect, it became clear it was Jesus drawing me all along from unbelief to belief. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,”1 He had promised, and I found His promise to be true.

It had been eight days since Thomas rejected his friends’ testimony of Jesus’ resurrection; “Unless I see … I will not believe,”2 he had vowed. Yet when Jesus appeared to them a second time, Thomas was with them; though unbelieving, he had kept coming back. Perhaps he deeply longed for the inner peace and joy emanating from his reborn friends, but whatever the means, it was Jesus faithfully drawing Thomas to Himself. “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands,” He told his unbelieving disciple, “reach here your hand and put it into My side.”3

Whether ten years, eight days or a lifetime, the vital journey from unbelief to belief in Jesus is the same immeasurable distance, for it is the path from our ways to God’s way, from false notions and deceptions to Him who is true, and from eternal separation from God to eternal life in Him. Then belief is not a one-time event, but rather the essence of life in Christ: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,”4 Jesus continued. “My Lord and my God!”5 answered Thomas. He was and remains a changed man—unbelief no longer defines him, nor does our sin define us when we, like Thomas, believe.

My Lord and my God, draw us to yourself. Call us always from unbelief to belief, for you are who you say you are: the way, the truth and the life. Grace us to rest in you. Amen.

1 John 12: 32
2 John 20:25 NASB
3, 4 John 20:27 NASB
5 John 20:28 NASB