Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 13

OMNIPOTENCE WITH A TOWEL ON HIS ARM

In the upper chamber it is the night of the Passover Supper. Into the upper room come thirteen men. They sit down on low divans around a low horseshoe shaped table. Before them, on the table, are bowls of mutton, unleavened bread and wine. They sit there in a strained silence.

They have been walking on sandaled feet through dust. Their feet are dirty. It was the custom then, when a man had guests that he call a servant to wash their feet. Lacking a servant, the owner of the house performed the menial chore himself. But in this instance none of the thirteen men own the house. Who then will perform the function of the servant? The twelve disciples look toward Jesus as their acknowledged leader. Their glances are uneasy. Not one of them but would be loathe to disobey him. They wonder whom he will command.

Jesus watches the scene sadly. What if he had commanded Simon, “Rise up Peter, and wash the feet of thy brethren?” Can’t you just see Peter reluctantly taking the basin and with downcast countenance going about the hateful task. He was human you know, a lot like you and me. Can’t you just see the others with triumphant smirks on their faces stretching their dirty toes toward Simon. They were human too, you know, a lot like you and me.

An Unforgettable Picture

But it didn’t happen that way. Suddenly Jesus rises, girds himself with a towel and takes up the basin of water. There is a picture I cannot forget. Omnipotence girded with a towel. The eternal Prince of heaven with a basin of water in his hands, like the lowliest slave.

Peter Misses the Lesson

Immediately Peter objects. The Lord insists and Peter submits. But he is still a proud man. He seems ready to accept the washing as a ritual of some sort but as a lesson in humility it doesn’t seem to have registered. A few minutes later he is boasting again. He is insisting that his loyalty and faithfulness is greater than that of all the rest. “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” Before ever the Holy Spirit can enter and use this man, his pride must be crushed. There is but one way to do this. The cure of pride is humiliation, and such humiliation that leaves not one shred of ground on which to rebuild the structure of self-righteousness.

A man may know he is a sinner and still be proud. Many men even find it possible to be proud of their sins. I have heard men boast of fornication, cheating, clever lying, tyranny, cruelty, extortion, greed, gluttony, revelry, and every other sin under heaven except one. I have never heard any man brag about having been cowardly. Cowardice is a sin nobody likes. It is universally condemned. When Peter denied his Lord he did so not because he no longer loved him, but because his fear was greater than his love and sense of duty. To be cowardly is to act meanly, to betray love and duty, because you are afraid. This is what Peter’s denial did. It was at once one of the worst and one of the best things that ever happened to him. It was a terrible thing to do. But its very meanness acted as a force to crush the pride that would have ruined Peter. A man whose act of cowardice is so obvious and put on record for the ages can never be proud again.

The Savior Intercedes

Now Jesus knew this was going to happen to Peter. He predicted it. God had revealed it to him. God knows not only everything we are doing and have ever done; but also all we ever will do. How then is free will possible? By the fact that God leaves us a choice. He lives in eternity. Every time and all times are eternally present to God. He does not see us doing something in the future. He sees us doing it now. This is true because all times are now to God. He does not then force us to do something, he merely sees us doing it. He revealed to Christ that Peter would deny. Immediately Christ prayed for Peter. In answer to the prayer, God revealed to Christ that Peter would be converted and become a tower of strength to his brethren.

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32).  Do you not begin to get the overwhelming sense of a life managed by God? I do not mean that God interfered with Peter’s will but rather that he put before Peter the circumstances that would call forth certain choices from such a man as Peter was. These choices would affect changes within Peter that would finally amount to the finished saint. God creates time in order that we may have an opportunity to watch ourselves being created and to help by our free choices in the process of creation. Yet all along God sees the finished product.

The Cardinal Point

But notice the cardinal point in Peter’s conversion. “I have prayed for thee.” Jesus points out that Peter will be converted. “When thou are converted.” He leaves no doubt as to the accomplishment of this conversion. But the entire passage indicates that the thing that does the most toward this accomplishment will not be the miracles Peter had seen, or the parables he had heard, or the wrestlings with temptation he engages in, or the deep thoughts he thinks, but simply the fact that “I have prayed for thee.” The conversion of Peter was accomplished in large measure by intercessory prayer.

Christ Still Intercedes

And this same wonderful Christ is praying for us. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” If you and me are ever saved, it will be because he is praying for us. The value of intercessory prayer cannot be measured. Five minutes of real intercessory prayer is worth more than two hours of advice. The finest service I can render any man is to pray for him, and by far the finest thing any man can do for me is to pray for me. The subject of intercessory prayer however, which we must now consider is by far too great a subject to simply devote a paragraph to and then leave. We will consider it in our next article.

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