Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.

Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:69-75

True story. I remember it like yesterday. I went to Bible camp one time in middle school. It was 1974, the summer after 7th grade. To call the camp I went to a “fundamentalist” camp makes your average run of the mill fundamentalist look liberal. It was both a horrible experience and an incredibly formative experience for me. I am a pastor, and I am the type of pastor I am, due in no small part to that camp.

They very well could have talked about the God who loves me but I don’t remember hearing it. I DO remember the God I needed to be afraid of, the one who already had sentenced me to hell if I didn’t change my ways and clean up my act. Hell was the default position for people to be in. Heaven was reserved for those in the club who said the right things and did the right things.

So I did what they told me to do. I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior at every available opportunity. Every campfire. Every evening speech. I said the words and did the deed and hoped against hope that I would be different when I got home.

The day I got home I went up to the middle school courts to play basketball. A high school player I admired was already there. We got to talking. He asked me if I had seen the movie showing downtown (it was The Exorcist.) My mind told me, “Now is your chance to WITNESS to your new-found faith in God! Tell him that is an evil movie and, as a new Christian, you don’t go to evil movies.” But my mouth just said, “No, I don’t go to movies like that.”

“Why is that?” he asked. My mind again, “Here is your chance! He’s giving you another chance! Tell him about your faith!!!” But my mouth just said, “I don’t know. I just don’t.” And the conversation moved on. I probably asked him to dunk one for me. I was a failure as a Christian.

I SO get Peter. All bluster and conviction gone in a puff at the slightest application of the right peer pressure. Real peer pressure – not the imaginary “our faith is under attack!!!” or we live in the days of “moral relativism where everyone decides for themselves what truth is” or “look out the gays are coming to get your kids!!!” – but REAL pressure. The kind that costs you something. The kind where actual stones might be coming your way. The kind where standing up for Jesus might leave you standing defenseless, all alone. Peter craters. And Jesus knew he would. I SO get Peter.

The one I don’t get is Jesus. He surrenders himself to his captors. He stands defenseless against his accusers. Soon he will suffer at the hands of the soldiers – always soldiers sent to do the actual dirty work of the politicians and religious leaders and the crowds. I don’t “get” Jesus in the sense that I have a hard time understanding such courage. Such love. Such mercy. Such grace.

I don’t get Jesus – but I, and all of us, Peters though we be – get all of the benefits of Jesus’ love. He did all he did, for us.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we are in that courtyard with Peter. We too speak of our convictions and are so quick to defend those that divide, demean, and distort. But to speak of love and to act from a place of love, even at cost to ourselves, that is always the greater challenge for us. To stand up for you by standing up to the world…this is where we falter. Forgive us, inspire us, guide us, use us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    You have a way with words and the handling of issues that tempts me to envy. Keep up the good work!!!

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