If we are going to be willing to lay down our life for Christ’s sake, we must first be willing to lay down our reputation.
I stood, hidden in the shadows outside the massive building, watching him. A servant girl approached him and I heard her words clearly: “You were with Jesus of Galilee!” His reply made me shudder. “I do not know him!” It was a vehement, adamant statement, but I knew he lied. He seemed uneasy now and moved out towards the outer porch. I followed from a distance. He looked like a frantic little child, but I knew he would stay. He had to know what would happen to the very one he had just denied. Another maid brushed past. She paused… “Are you not the man who was with Jesus of Nazereth?” His brow furrowed and I heard him curse. “I do not know the man!” He spat the words like a guilty child. I felt a pain welling up in my heart. The minutes crawled like hours and another man stepped out from where he had been standing. “Your speech betrays that you are a Galilean. Surely you were with the man they call Jesus.” I turned and ran from the place. I could hear his guilty curses being flung through the early morning air as my feet left the steps. Somewhere a rooster crowed. I froze for an instant, and then there was bitter weeping from the walls behind me. Three times, he had denied his Lord…our Lord.
We know Peter as the fearful disciple – the one whose faith failed him while walking upon the water, the one who denied Jesus three times in close succession. But walk a little farther into Peter’s life and you will see a man, bound in chains, standing boldly before the Sanhedrin. “You judge between us, but I will obey God rather than man.” His words cut the men of that court to the heart. Step even farther and you will see a man being crucified upside down on a cross for the sake of the very Savior he once denied – but only after he became willing to sacrifice his reputation and his personal comfort.
Christians may nobly declare to fellow Christians that they are willing to lay down their very lives for Christ’s sake if it is required of them, but most are glorified liars with heroic feelings that will not last them in the heat of the battle.
This was a perfect description of Peter early on. He adamantly insisted that he would never leave Jesus’ side…and would even follow Him to the grave if necessary! Yet Peter was among those who fled and the only one to verbally deny that he knew Jesus. Every believer will likely be at such a place at some point in their Christian life. They have every intention of staying fully committed, no matter what – but when the pressures come, they take their toll, and their infant-strength gives way. The remarkable thing about this season of the Christian life is Christ’s commitment to us – which never gives way:
I find that we are often ashamed to wear the mark of a committed Christian – to proclaim to the world that we are bought by the blood of the sinless Jesus; but that same sinless Jesus is not ashamed to call us, in our wretched state, his blood-bought children.
After Peter denied Jesus, he must have done some serious soul-searching. After Jesus’ resurrection, we find the two of them together and Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him. When Peter affirms his love for the Lord, Jesus’ response is critical to understand: “Feed my sheep.” In other words, “Go tell the world. Don’t hide in the shadows, don’t deny my name, don’t try to make yourself appear like any other normal person. Proclaim my name to everyone you meet!” And in the next season of Peter’s life, we find this amazing man leading the entire Christian church and bringing hundreds, even thousands to the saving knowledge of Christ. Peter died to himself that day that he denied his Lord, and he took up his cross, and decided to deny himself. If that meant laying his reputation in the dust, he was willing. That death to self gave Peter the courage to tell his murderers, “I am not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as my Lord. Hang me upside down.” He had already died. Now he was ready to live again – in heavenly places with his Savior.
Your life as it is now is your chance to die. Choose to take this chance so that when you are faced with the ultimate fiery trial, you can think of nothing but the glory of life eternal.
We tend to belittle Peter, I think. After all, he seems to frequent mistakes throughout the Gospels. He’s hot-headed and quick-tongued, but fearful and unpredictable under pressure. He never has enough faith to accomplish anything and he asks the dumbest questions of the whole bunch. But when it all boils down, it would do us all good if we had just an ounce of Peter’s courage, just enough boldness for the ten seconds it takes to say “I am not worthy to die as Christ died.”
Here was a man who allowed his failures to humble him – and this is one of the greatest accomplishments in human sanctification that will ever be recorded.
Learn from the life of Peter.