November 4, 2016
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Why was Peter’s denial of Jesus such a big deal?
Most of the passes I’ve made through these denial texts over the years in the Gospels have led me to ask myself the predictable question, “So how do I deny Jesus?” That usually gets pretty spiritualized and amorphous and otherwise meaningless and that’s that.
This time through I’m thinking about the whole deal a bit differently. I’m thinking the big deal wasn’t so much Peter’s denial of Jesus, as it was the final breaking of Peter. Why do I think this? Look at how he responded:
And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter’s strong willed, type A, “we will rock you,” spirit was finally broken. It is very hard for these kind of people to get to this kind of place. They tend to get back up, double down on their resolve, head to the weight room and go at it again. And don’t hear me wrong. These type A, “let’s take the hill,” kind of people aren’t bad people. They can often be quite great people and powerful leaders. However, in order for these types to be of use to Jesus they must be broken. Their unadulterated, unbridled strength is actually a disqualifying weakness in the Kingdom of God.
Peter finally came face to face with a spirit breaking failure that would finally qualify him to lead the church. He finally saw himself beyond the facade of all his self determined strength. He finally saw himself in his frailty. This would break him in a way from which he could not bounce back. He would have to be forgiven. He would finally have to find himself at the feet of Jesus like everybody else, stripped of his strength and clinging to the only qualification that would matter going forward: weakness.
This is a hard one for us. Jesus is not drawn to our strengths. He is attracted to our weakness. Sure, our strengths can be of great good in the Kingdom of God, but only after they have been broken—and we realize it was never about our strengths. I think this is what happened in Peter’s deepest self that night as he wept bitterly. He finally knew himself in weakness.
Father, this is such a hard lesson to learn. In fact, it’s not so much a lesson you want to teach me as it is a place you will to lead me. You are taking me to the Cross of your son, Jesus. I think I understand yet I’m becoming sure there is so much more I don’t understand. Take me there like I’ve never been there before. If you lead me I will follow. In Jesus name, Amen.
1. Have you been through a “breaking” experience? What was that like?
2. What do you think about this idea of Jesus being more attracted to our weakness than our strength?
3. Why is the world so focused on finding our strengths? How do we follow a God who works in our weakness in a world so focused on our strengths?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.