Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr.– No. 18
I am aware that I have sounded rather gloomy for the last two or three articles. We have, after all, reached a gloomy time in Peter’s life. We are likewise faced with some rather gloomy situations in the present time. Yet all the while there is a bright spot. God was still there watching Peter and God knew Peter was going to make it through. God is watching us today. What he knows about us is still, so far as we can be aware, an unwritten page. There were brighter days ahead for Peter. It is my heart’s desire and prayer to God that there are brighter days ahead for us. But if this is to be let us study how Peter won through to his brighter day and thus be strengthened in the search for our own.
There were three things that the Bible feels worthy of note in describing the crisis. The Lord turned and looked upon Peter. Peter remembered the words of the Lord. Peter wept.
The Lord Looked at Peter
If Peter remembered then Peter had certainly forgotten before he remembered. Isn’t it strange how, in certain moments, we can forget things we had thought we would always remember? We forget our blessings so easily when we want to engage in self pity. We forget our love so easily when we feel resentment. We forget our faith so quickly when we yield to temptation.
And then somehow the Lord turns and looks at us. He jogs our memories in some unobtrusive way, and suddenly we remember.
What an awful jolt it is to remember what we never should have forgotten. What a terrible thing it is to remember, just a minute too late to check the words already spoken and that cannot be called back. Is it any wonder that years later Peter wrote his entire second epistle, so he said in 2 Peter 3:1, just so the brethren would be sure to remember.
What Peter remembered is also significant. He remembered the words of the Lord but not just any words of the Lord. He remembered one particular prophesy. He hadn’t believed it when the Lord said it, but now he remembered. It still didn’t seem possible and yet it had happened.
I remember almost twenty years ago talking to one of the finest Christians I have known. I was holding a meeting in central Oklahoma. I was out squirrel hunting with this brother at the time. I was young and probably loud mouthed. I thought I knew so much, certainly more than this man, and I seemed intent on telling him everything I thought I knew. Finally, right in the middle of a bright exposition I was making concerning a passage of scripture I completely misunderstood, he turned to me with the sweetest smile and said quietly “You know, you’ll feel differently about that in a few years, but by the time you do you’ll feel differently about a lot of things. The world will look different to you for you will have learned to love more. You’ve got some big changing to do.”
I stared at him open mouthed. It struck me he was talking utter nonsense. I was sure that I could recite a better definition of “love” than he could. And how could the world look different? And how could I feel differently about the passage? I knew I was right and that he couldn’t prove I wasn’t. I laughed at him. I laughed with the hard, cold, cruel, arrogant laughter of a young man who thought he knew a lot. I went my way and forgot it. The years passed. Sorrow came into my life, and with it came a realization of personal helplessness. God sent me men I needed, and situations to try me. And then one day I found myself talking with a young man fifteen years younger than myself. I found myself listening to a brilliant bit of high sounding philosophy which I knew was utterly false. Yet I knew that there was no way I could show this young man that. He was too taken with his own idea to grant a fair hearing to anything else. I found myself saying, “You know, you’ll feel differently about that in a few years” and then I stopped for I had remembered. I looked across at the confident young man before me and saw myself fifteen years before. I had remembered. I like to remember too that I got back to that brother in Oklahoma before he died and told him how right he had been. It made me feel better when I preached his funeral a couple of years later.
But there was more in Peter’s memory than just the fact that the Lord had been right. There was the horror of realizing that he wasn’t as good a man as he had believed himself to be; had even boasted he was. In the space of a few minutes he had proven himself to be a coward, a traitor, a liar, and a curser. And he had thought he was Peter the rock. He was the man who had left everything to follow Christ; the man who had walked on water; the man who had first made the great confession; the man promised the keys of the kingdom; the man who had seen Moses and Elijah on the mountain; and he was a traitor, a curser, a coward, and a liar.
Peter wept. He didn’t weep in anger, or self pity. He wept from a real sadness. He wept from a heavy sense of guilt and shame. I see a lot of tears shed today. But usually they are tears of anger or self pity. Rarely do I see tears of shame. We are losing our sense of the sadness of sin. We weep over the death bed of a loved one but we stand dry eyed over the casket of our own dead conscience. We have learned that sin is just a big joke. We forget that Jesus wasn’t laughing at Calvary. We laugh at a drunk man. Would we laugh under the shadow of the cross at the kind of thing that made the cross necessary? Sin isn’t funny. It is terribly sad. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry. James says, “Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.” We may laugh at temptation. But don’t laugh at sin. Temptation can be a beneficial thing. It is the bugle call to battle. But sin is the dirge of defeat.
Peter’s Pride Died
So Simon leaves the fire of the ungodly, breaks away from the alien hall and goes out into the night. He goes as Simon the traitor, the curser, the coward, the liar. But Simon the proud man is dead. And this, after all was the man who had to die. Cowardice, lying, cursing, are all terrible things but they are more easily destroyed than pride. Peter the rock can resist cowardice and all the other things that finally proved too much for proud Simon.