MARK 14:66-72: “As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the kohen gadol comes by. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked straight at him. “You also were with Yeshua of Natzeret,” she says. But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went outside to the gateway, and a rooster crowed. Seeing him, the servant girl began again to tell the bystanders, “This is one of them.” But again he denied it. And a little while later, the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you’re one of them, for you’re also a Galilean.” But he began to curse himself and to swear an oath: “I do not know this Man you’re talking about!” Right then, a rooster crowed a second time. Then Peter called to mind the word Yeshua had said to him: “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he broke down and began to weep.” (TLV)
OBSERVATION: Why is it so hard to admit that I am weak? I want to be strong. I want to appear strong to others. And when I am not, many times I put on a strong front to truly hide my weakness. When I read this account of Peter’s denial, I am not filled with contempt for Peter, I am faced with my own weakness.
It is a bold reality check when we are faced with our own mortality. I was a fairly young man in my early twenties when I discovered that I had a leaky heart valve. Tests were done, and it was confirmed that it was a congenital defect. There was nothing that needed to be done at this time, and it did not affect my daily routine in any way. I worked hard, played hard, and never had an issue with my heart.
Years went by until I had my first episode on a business trip to the Northwest. My heart was racing, it was the middle of the night, and I thought I was having a heart attack. The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance heading to the hospital. After everything calmed down I was told to immediately go to a cardiologist when I returned home. I was only 42 years old, far too young to have heart problems.
Returning to my home in San Antonio I made an appointment with a cardiologist. The doctor I was given was the head of the transplant unit at the Methodist Hospital. Surely I did not need that! I will never forget that appointment. She reviewed the data from the hospital in the Northwest, assessed my condition, and told me I had 5 years. She probably said more than that, but when I heard 5 years I simply stopped listening. I got into my car and wondered how this could be happening. How could I tell my wife? How could I tell my 5 year old daughter?
For five years I was convinced that I was strong enough to beat this! I exercised, cycled regularly, and believed that a miracle would take place in my life. My follow up appointments went from every six months to every three months. The normal routine was a nuclear stress test and analysis. Yet, I was strong enough. I was strong in my faith, I was in good shape, I was going to beat this! And then, almost 5 years to the date of my first appointment it happened. I was faced with my own mortality. I was not as strong as I thought.The aortic valve in my heart went into atrophy and I was being whisked away for valve replacement surgery.
Like Peter I thought I was strong. And when I faced my own mortality, it was both a rude awakening and a call to humility. During this entire ordeal I learned that my only true strength was found in Christ alone. And in the days and years after this event I have had to walk in the balance of my weakness both physically and spiritually. There are times when I revert back to thinking I am strong enough, and the Lord gently reminds me that He alone is my strength.
Peter wept. He wept over the fact that he had failed his Messiah. He wept over the fact that he had buckled under pressure. He wept when he realized his own weakness. Here was the man who was willing to die for his Lord. He took a sword to one of the guards in the garden, and then turned and ran away. Pursuing Jesus from a distance he not only denied Jesus three times, he also cursed himself. How could he be Peter – the rock?
It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we find the beginning of His life and provision. Sometimes our self-reliance has to be pealed away like the layers of an onion until we stand naked and bare before the Lord and before ourselves. And when we do, we are not met with God’s displeasure and judgment – we are met with God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness, and strength. It was the denying Peter that Jesus restored by the seaside after His resurrection with His call to love. And it was the Spirit filled Peter who preached the great sermon of Pentecost which birthed the church. This once strong man, now weak within himself, found His strength in Christ alone!
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Lord, help me today to stand – in Christ alone!
In Jesus Name!