“God is doing a new thing…..”
For Rural Chapel UMC
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Peter act recklessly when in Matthew 26: 34, in response to Christ’s prophesy that Peter would deny him 3 times, Peter had said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
And so it was, history records that Peter not only denied Jesus once, but 3 times – just as Jesus has prophesied. “And he broke down and wept.”
This is a sad moment in the behavior of one of history’s greatest disciples, the one that Jesus chose to be the rock…. However, this is but a snapshot in the story of one’s remaking … a new think
But in the stream of the story of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord and Savior, could we ask the question together, especially during this season of Lent, our time of preparation and examination, why does history present this story to us? What role does the denial of Peter play in God’s mission of our salvation? How does this broken moment of Peter’s discipleship help complete the story of God’s love and grace.
We must look deeper into both the story of Peter and Scripture and then relate our understanding of God’s plan for us …Lent and beyond.
In the reading of Isaiah, we find the chosen people of God washed through the Exodus, the Wilderness, the period of Kings to include David, and the point when time had run out regarding their disobedience. They had been warned and punished into exile. And then Isaiah was chosen to prophesy on behalf of God that the past would be past, and that He was about to do a new thing.
We have all witnessed, if not in our personal lives, a process of how God brings someone through a period of severe difficulty only to see that person transformed for the positive by the experience. Sometimes a person has to hit bottom, sometimes confront one’s darkside, mistakes, negative characteristics or a meriad of other circumstances keeping that person from wholeness and the joys of life. And then God does a new thing….
In Newton’s law of gravity, an object that reaches a apex in flight must by its own weight overcome the force that propelled it and return in the opposite direction.
Peter acted boldly when in Matthew 14: 28 Peter had said, “Lord, if its you, tell me to come to you in the water…”
Peter acted boldly when he answered Jesus’ question in Matthew 16: 15 “Who do you say that I am?” to which Peter had said, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.”
Can you embracer Peter’s pride, boldness, and times misplaced confidence. Can you feel his love for Jesus, but his characteristics that would impede the fullness of his service to Christ as a disciple. We could say that at the moment of his boldness … “Even is I have to die with you, that the “object had reached its own apex, having been propelled by its own energy, and begins to fall back down….
What ingredient do you think would be missing to help make Peter the apostle that would be second only to Paul as history greatest evangelist?
It was John Riskin who said, "I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a ... feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them." Andrew Murray said, "The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because ... he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility." M.R. De Haan used to say, "Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have."
Do you remember Saul, the Jewish temple trained bounty hunter that was looking to imprison as many Christians as he could find. Can you imagine the personality/characteristics of a bounty hunter. I am not necessarily speaking about Gerald Butler who portrays the Bounty Hunter, a new movie released this weekend, but a image that certainly doesn’t look like one of the twelve Jesus chose. We could agree that person would have to go through quite a transformation… another object at the apex headed quickly in the opposite direction? That Saul turned Paul who would write:
I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9
I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8
I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
A missing link --- humility?
Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. So too, Paul, released from the bounds of self-proclaimed confidence and boldness, articulates humility in his letters descriptions of himself quoted in the previous scripture citations dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.
And with a momentary flashback to the question I raised as to why this story of Peter appears in the middle of the Passion story? “and he wept….”
Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.
The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.
Yes, humility was not a characteristic we would attribute to Peter, but with God there is always more to the story. God accepts as we are, but doesn’t leave us there…even during our Lenten journey…He can do a new thing if we let him. Paul surrendered. Did Peter?
We have to look to the breakfast at the lake following the resurrection as recorded in the 21st Chapter of Gospel John when Jesus asked Peter “Simon, son of John, Do you love me?” It was the question Jesus asked three times, coincidentally matching the number of times Peter had denied Jesus at the trial that transformed Peter to the one who would later testify to the High Priest after he was arrested for proclaiming Jesus following the resurrection. As recorded in Acts 4, the priest asked Peter, “By power or by what name did you do this (healed a crippled beggar)? Peter answered, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified, who God raised from the dead.”
And this was shortly followed up by a threat from their captures to in effect cease and desist if they continue to speak in Christ’s name to which Peter would reply, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather that to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard”
Now does that sound like the same Peter, or someone in whom God has done a new thing!
An isolated moment in history? One that has some value for us during this time of Lent…the Sunday before Jesus is welcomed into the City… Palm Sunday? The rest of Peter’s story is our story that God is never willing to leave the faithful where they are… us. God rewrites our story and if we are open to God’s remaking, individually, as a family, as a community of faith, He will not leave us there….He will do in us a new thing so that we too can join the Saints in completing the mission that Jesus began in His death and resurrection… and add to the historical legacy of the new thing he did for the Nation of Israel as he gathered the dispora back to Jerusalem, Paul who would go on to evangelize the gentiles and Peter the Jews.