Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Peter is Sifted

In this specific moment we find Peter, wondering through back allies of Jerusalem.  Evening has turned into night. He is trying not to be seen. He is following a raucous crowd.

Ahead of Peter stood Caiaphas' house.  The high priest had summoned this mob, and they were returning with their prize.  Peter quietly stow away in the pack.  He had to see, he had to know.  What was going to happen to his Lord?  The one he declared to be Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

In this horrible turn of events, the Passover meal was supposed to end in celebration, deliverance, salvation.  How did this one turn into a lynch mob.  Surly no salvation can come from this. Peter still had the taste of bread and wine in his mouth, the body and the blood of Jesus Christ.  “But at the Passover the blood of the lamb is to be spilled for the salvation of the Jews.” Peter thought, “What did Jesus mean His body broken his blood, the new covenant, spilled out?”

Peter wanted to be there. Maybe at some precise moment, when a guard turns his head, or the crowd gets confused, Jesus will slip away.  It’s happened before.  Peter avoided drawing attention to himself.

Caiaphas, and the members of the Sanhedrin, attempt after attempt, failed to capture Jesus.  They often crafted cunning questions and turn-a-phrase to stump Jesus and destroy his credibility, or reputation with some ill-timed gaff, or poor answer.  But Jesus lovingly answered their questions and frustrated their plans. 

That is until this night.  This night they were ready for him with false witnesses and people with payed testimony.

Peter, hiding in the cold corner of the courtyard, drew nearer to a fire someone started. Unfortunately for Peter, fire brings light. Peter intently listening to the trial in its early proceedings payed no attention to a servant-girl who also sought warmth. 

The observations of the young astound us.  This servant-girl was no exception.  Staring intently through the flex of light cast, around the corner of the courtyard. she began to recognize Peter, or at least his association with the man on trial.

“Weren't you with Him?” she asked herself in peters direction.  Then louder and bolder, “This man was with Him too!” 

They've spotted me think quick what do I say, “Woman I do not know this man”


Peter wasn't a coward or at least how we would define coward.  He was constantly entering situations and doing the bold thing and failing, big.  When this same mob came to collect their bounty, payed for by 30 pieces of silver, the price you purchase a slave, Peter did not go quietly.  With great effort Peter assaulted the guards.  He swung his sword, in an attempt to eliminate the people about to take Jesus from him. 

Peter thought, It begins, the revolution begins, tonight.  Peter was correct but he did not understand the revolution Jesus was about to bring.  Peter fought, he sliced the ear from one of the guards, and prepared for a second attempt at the guard's head, when Jesus said, “NO MORE OF THIS!”  He restored the man’s ear. 

Peter went to great effort to remove that ear, what are you doing Jesus?  Why are you going with them?  This is the moment, this is the night let your revolution begin. 

Peter was ready for a revolution. He was ready to bring it in his own strength.  But in this moment, his strength fled.  He was being sifted by Satan, and was failing.  When the slave-girl recognized Peter, instead of standing by Jesus, Peter claimed that he did not know him. 

Read: Luke 22:58

Peter pushes away from the firelight and further into the darkness.  I just want to see Jesus, he thought. “When is he going to slip away?” He quietly asked himself.  But Jesus was not going to slip away.  Jesus' revolution did not resemble Peter's.  And as Jesus said many times before Jesus was being led to his death. 

Peter was caught between what he had expected to happen and what was really happening. Wasn't Jesus going to slip away from the crowd? He seems to be answering their questions. Engrossed in the proceedings Peter fails to see the murmur, started by the girl, grow.  And now even in a darkened place another person begins to recognize Peter's association with Jesus. 

“Don't you look familiar?” The man said
Who is this guy? Peter thought did he follow me from the fire? “Do you mind I am trying to hear what is happening to this guy?” Peter did is best to defuse the situation.
“That's right! Your one of them too!”
“I AM Not!”

You see, Peter vividly remembers the day he became one of them.  It happened after a long night of fishing on the lake of Geneserate.  If fish swam in that lake Peter, James, and his brother John never found them.  Pulling in after a defeating night the three fishermen start mending their nets.  They threw out the old moss covered sandals they removed from the lake. They patched holes and prepared to doc their boats for the day.  Then He came. 

Jesus stepped into Peter's boat and asked to use his vessel as a stage to address the assembled students.  Peter wondered if he was going to get a commission or at least a credit for this last minute arrangement.  Especially because it was keeping Peter from resetting and refreshing his business for the next day.  The lesson lasted for a long, time then Jesus said to Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 

“Master,” Peter replied, “we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing. But if you say so we will do it.”  In the wrong part of the day, in the wrong part of the lake Peter and crew cast their nets, and their haul was superlative.  Never had any of them seen this many fish in one cast.  Yet here they were!  James and John continued to lug the fish on board while Peter fell at the feet of Jesus and worshiped him.  “Jesus, who am I? Leave me! I am a sinner and do not deserve to have you on my boat.”  Jesus responded, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

But not tonight.  Peter is being tested, and failing.  He is disassociating himself from Jesus, his disciples, and all who followed him.  “Man, I am not one of them.”

“I just want to see Jesus. I just want to hear his voice. I just want to know if he is Ok.” So hiding himself in the shadow of a pillar, Peter squats down and listens to them try Jesus.  He listens to them bring false witnesses.  Peter knows that this guy testifying was actually healed by Jesus, and yet he brings these false claims.  “Could I set the record straight,” Peter asked. 

Wondering, cowering, Peter hid and listened.  Around an hour later the matter of Peter's identity continued to gain interest, and Peter could not hide any longer. “Certainly this man was with him,” Someone in the rabble said, not so much to Peter this time but those standing around him. Recognizing the Galilean Accent and style he was certain, “Cerntanly this man was with him, he is a Galilean also.”

            Luke 22:31-33 

Several hours earlier that night sitting around the table in the upper room Jesus spoke to Peter, “Peter, Satan has asked for you.” Jesus had Peter's attention, “Satan wants to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed that your faith would remain. When you turn back and are restored, comfort the others.”

Peter fumed, how could he say I would fall away? He said out loud to Jesus, “Jesus I will be with you through prison and death.”

“I am sorry Peter, before the morning rooster crows, this day, you will deny me three times.”

Peter refused to accept Jesus' prediction. He was determined, “I am going to stand by my Messiah!” Peter did his best on his own strength he tried to stand.  On his own understanding of what was happening he tried to fight.  Where Jesus was leading, Peter was not ready to follow. 

Here it was again, “Certainly this man also was with Him.”

“I do not know what you are talking about, I DO NOT KNOW THIS MAN!”

Do you hear that?  It is the sound of the morning rooster.  Usually a symbol of routine and comfort, “a new day has begun.”  Not today.  A bad night should have ended and now Peter stands facing Jesus.  Peter sees the welt on Jesus' face, right where they struck Him.  Peter recognizes his sorrow filled expression, and in that moment they both know: Peter Failed.

Peter turns his back to Jesus and runs out into the street.  He hides himself away and weeps in bitter tears and agony.  He weeps in failure, he weeps in sorrow.  And by the end of the day Peter will weep because they will crucify His Lord. 

If this were the end of the story we would all cry for Peter.  We would weep and mourn for him.  I often wonder what happened between the time the roosters crowed and the woman returned from the tomb. 

I imagine Peter hid most of the day Thursday, and wept most of the day on Friday.  I suspect Saturday morning, after receiving the word, “Jesus is dead,” Peter stood and found his fellow disciples.  They came to him and saw a broken man.  A man weak from the bitter tears of loss.  A man weak from a bitter defeat.  His eyes red swollen, Peter met with his other disciples and asked, what do we do now? Go home, make a stand, or disappear?  What do we do? Maybe it was Peter who said, “let’s wait until the morning after the Sabbath, and pay our final respects to Jesus.  After that I am going back to fishing.” 

This is not a story of failure though.  This is not a story that ends in defeat.  I hope you know what they found in the tomb that first Easter morning they found nothing.  Where the body was placed only burial garments remain. 


Jesus did not stay in the tomb.  He rose from the dead.  Peter's failure was redeemed because Christ resurrected.  Make no mistake Peter failed and failed big.  Peter only did things in the largest possible of terms and he spared no expense for his failure.  But Jesus did not fail. 

Jesus succeeded.  Handsomely succeeded.  Peter thought Jesus was coming to over throw the tyranny of the Romans.  Jesus came to over throw the tyranny of sin and death.  Jesus came to claim his people from a painful and fallen world.  Jesus came to take Peters failure, and Jesus' victory became Peter's victory. 

If you turn forward in your bible you will find a day when Jesus walks beside a lake with Peter and lovingly restores him.  If you keep reading Jesus gives all of his disciples, even you and me, a commission a call a job to do, “Go into all the world and be fishers of Men.”  Peter’s story, after Jesus ascends and sends His Holy Spirit, and for the first time since Jesus stepped onto peters boat, Peter casts his net.   But this time the boat is filled to overflowing with people.  On the morning of Pentecost instead of bagging some stinky fish, 3000 beautiful and eternal souls turned their life over to Christ and the mission began.

You see too often we get stuck on one side of the cross or the other.  If Peter remained on the floor crying and Jesus never rose again.  There was no restoration.  Then we would have no hope.  We would all be dead in our sin.  But as Christ rose He brought reconciliation and restoration through a grace we could not earn or deserve. 

If Peter story was merely to be on the resurrected side of the then one could look at peter and say look at his power of persuasion to lead people to God. In reality Peter has no power except the power that belongs to his love and savior Jesus Christ.  When Peter preaches, prays, heals, and brings hope from Pentecost forward he does it as a failure redeemed by the victory in the cross.  Peter is a failure redeemed by the power of Grace. 

So you can leave here one of three ways.  The first is as a failure.  If you’ve never approach the cross you will be like Jesus closest friend, and biggest failure.  There is no victory, no revolution, no ransom apart from the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. 

The second is to leave hear thinking I can do it on my own now because of the cross.  This is a worldly notion that will cause you to fail once again.  You see when Peter tried to fend off the 500 when he tried to stand at the trial he did so on his own power.  But when Peter caught the fish and caught the people he did it on the strength of God.  If we think grace means we can do it on our own, we quickly find ourselves back in the first place we started: failure. 

The third way to leave today is as a dependent adopted child of God.  You can look at Peter and know that because of who he was before the cross, God was glorified in Peter after the cross.  It is the same way with you.  Your failures, some are know, some you will take to your grave, some you don't even realize as failures, make you who you are in the kingdom of God. 

God loves you because in your failure he can demonstrate his love, glory, and grace in your life.  He will take you from a weak nothing of a person, to a solid man or woman, who calls out boldly to their heavenly Father.  In grace your failure gives God glory in victory so by making much of him in our inability we find our greatest love joy and delight.  


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