“And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock” (Matt 16:17 Message).
Alan didn’t know his father would die from a heart attack at age 39. If he had, maybe he would have bit his tongue.
“I hate you!” he declared one day in anger. The words slipped out of his mouth faster than a spit wad out of a straw. Unfortunately, they were the last words he ever spoke to his father.
The angry outburst would haunt Alan for years. Tormented by the anguish he feared would never be resolved, Alan spent many nights trying to swathe his sorrow.
Final dialogues are often echoes in our mind. They ricochet back and forth while an invisible amplifier magnifies their volume. Imagine Jesus’ last words to Peter. “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
“Never!” declared Peter. And yet, later, when he heard the rooster’s crows, the sting of this unimaginable prediction pierced Peter.
The word “deny” comes from the Greek word, aparneomai, which means to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone. Like a divine annulment, Peter was saying the love he felt for Christ never existed. And he didn’t just simply state he didn’t know Christ; Peter added some colorful dialogue that Matthew edited out of his gospel. In his manner-of-fact tone, Matthew writes, Then began he to curse and to swear, [saying], I know not the man. And as soon as the dreadful words rolled off his tongue, Matthew records with the precision of a dramatic Hollywood screenplay: Immediately the cock crew (Matt 26:74 KJV).
Yes, Peter the apostle was a wimpy coward and yet, just ten chapters earlier, Christ said this to him: “God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock (Matt 16:17 Message).
It’s hard to imagine, but here was a man whom Jesus said was so rock solid that he would build his church on the strength of his soul, and nonetheless the same man was capable of denying and cursing his savior. And now, from across the courtyard Peter’s shame-filled eyes met the eyes of Christ. And with the guilt of a murder suspect caught with a blood on his hands, the rock-solid disciple ran away.
Peter’s final words to someone he loved—an angry outburst.
A regretted curse.
A grave mistake.
In a way, seeing Peter’s faults offers me hope. It makes me realize just how imperfect the disciples were. They weren’t superhuman heroes. The men Jesus picked to be his closest companions were normal men—men who make mistakes, men who were prone to failure, and men who cowered under the pressure of fear. Men, and women, just like us.
Thankfully, for every time we fail, His mercy prevails. After his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” He didn’t just ask him once. Jesus wanted to clear the slate. For each of the three times Peter denied knowing him, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to make it right.
What about you? Have you ever cursed God or hurled angry words at someone you love?
I hate you!
You can’t do anything right!
I want a divorce!
No matter how grave our mistakes, Jesus longs to remove the burden of our guilt. Christ saw Peter’s future with telepathic vision. Looking past his denial, he saw the intended result of Peter’s life, when the Christian coward would morph into a solid-rock guardian of truth.
Christ sees your future, too. He sees past your riveting regrets and grave mistakes. Will you let him reconcile your failures? Just like Peter, His grace makes your future rock solid.
Prayer: Jesus, I am so thankful that you chose someone like me, despite my failures. You are so loving and kind. You call forth character in me before I’m even capable. You love me when I do the right thing and even when I fail. Thank you for loving me and for extending your grace to cover my sins. Through your strength and mercy, I can be a solid rock. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
- Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
- For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).
- When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions (Psalms 65:3).
- For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Questions to Ponder:
- Have you ever walked in denial? Denial is human nature. Read Matthew 16:20 above. According to this scripture, how must we shift our denial in order to walk with Christ?
- Have you ever imagined that the disciples were perfect? How does it make you feel to realize that the disciples were people just like us, who sinned and made mistakes?
- Read the scriptures from Psalms above. When you are overwhelmed by your failures, how can you find comfort?
- Whatever we focus on is magnified. If we focus on our failures, even after we’ve been forgiven, we often get stuck in despair. If we focus on our future, we are filled with hope. Which is your tendency and why?
- Read Ephesians 2:10 above. When Christ called Peter a rock, he already knew Peter would deny him. What failures is Christ overlooking in your life? How do you think Christ can use your failures to transform your future?