The Apostle Peter often gets a bad rap. He’s head-strong and daring in the faith at some points, but at others he totally drops the ball. Peter is very human. Perhaps that’s why I like him so much.
… by a school girl!
My question is… what was Peter’s motive for denying Christ, and how does that affect me?
In the story, Peter is trailing Jesus, who has been taken captive and is headed towards the high priest’s questioning. I’m sure Peter is on edge; he’s seen what the authorities can do to trouble-makers. But Peter is strong and bold… Peter is the rock! Right?
That’s why it’s so surprising to me that his first denial is to a servant girl. A girl who had no power over Peter except for one thing:
The lowest of the low had the power to expose Peter as a follower of Christ. And big, bold Peter did what? He crumbled… he denied Christ.
Funny thing is, Peter denied Christ two more times that night… each at a higher level of risk (or at least ability to affect Peter). I wonder if those two were easier because Peter first denied at an entry-level? Deny once, then it gets easier…?
And I wonder if the same is true today. We deny our allegiance to Christ because we won’t be “cool,” or we won’t be with the in crowd. And with each denial, it gets a little easier. But when it counts, what happens? Jesus tells us:
“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven” (Matt 10:32–33 NLT)
I don’t want to do that. So how do I condition myself to not deny Christ? I think it’s helpful to examine why Peter’s denial happened.
As I peel back the layers of Peter’s denial, I see a motive of preservation. Peter wants to preserve his very life, but also his idea of what should be happening. (Jesus is going to overthrow the Romans, and Peter is going to have a place of honor!).
In short, Peter’s greatest desire seems to be self-preservation. And if the truth be told, that same desire is strong in every one of us.
Preservation is evident throughout Peter’s setting, and it causes some peculiar things:
- Peter wanted to preserve his life and dream… he denied Christ
- The High Priest and council wanted to preserve their power, even though it was under an occupation army… and they killed their Messiah
- The Romans wanted to preserve the peace… and they went to great (and brutal) lengths to do so, causing suffering and misery… for peace
- And Jesus… Jesus wanted to preserve…
None of the above! Jesus wasn’t about preservation, he had a different motive!
Jesus didn’t want to keep anything that society made. He was calling them to something much greater!
We often think of Jesus as coming to create something new (e.g., a new heaven and a new earth). But in essence, Jesus isn’t calling us forward, he’s calling us back… to a right relationship with God:
““Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matt 5:17 NLT)
As I compare Jesus’ desire for restoration with the world’s desire for preservation, I can’t help but wonder, is my desire to “preserve” keeping me from something better?
How about you? Could it be that the challenge of change… the call to let go of something that you’re struggling with right now might be God’s invitation to something greater?
I’ll be praying, for both of us, today!
– Is preservation a bad thing? Explain your thoughts
– Why are the people in this Scripture so intent on preserving what they have?
– What do you think would have happened had they let go of preservation and embraced Jesus’ restoration?
– Do you see any parallels today, where people are “preserving” at the expense of something better?
– When has preservation helped you? Hurt you?
– What stands between you and the restoration that God promises? What do you need to let go?
– What one thing can you do this week to embrace God’s restoration? Set a date/time goal… and do that!