Thursday, March 15, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:06 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 7

At this very moment I am sitting in Mugwalls, a coffee shop in College Station,TX. This is one of the most familiar towns and even one of the most familiar coffee shops in my life. I spent five straight years in this college town. And many hours were spent "studying" in this coffee shop. Well, it wasn't Mugwalls back then. It was Coffee Station, but nevertheless, it is familiar: the bar, the stairs, the neighboring businesses. I know them. I know how this place feels. I know how to drive the roads of this town without wondering if I know where I'm going. I don't have to think about traffic. Even before college I spent a good part of my life in this town visiting family. College Station is in me. I don't have to think too hard about anything here. And yet, I still do some of my best thinking here. It's comfortable. And in this familiar place, I find my mind wandering back to Peter. He apparently had a thing for the familiar too. Don't we all?

Can we all just agree that Peter was sometimes as idiot? That's why we relate to him so well, isn't it? He said some stupid things. He jumped into conversations the way a sky-diving instructor jumps from a plane. Only Peter is not that skilled. He's a beginner sky-diver. A beginner who forgot to strap on a chute before jumping. SPLAT! Flat on his face. Yep. Peter was a messy person to befriend. Jesus felt the sting of Peter's messiness time and time again. But I would imagine that out of all those time-agains, one stood out as the ultimate sting. 

After the Last Supper, Jesus was giving the disciples a glimpse of the future. He told them that they would all be scattered, that they would all fall away. And Peter, who clearly knew more about what's to come than the Messiah, declares, probably with more than a tinge of indignanation, "Even if the rest of them fall away, I will NEVER do that." And so Jesus, again turns to speak directly to Peter. He tells him, "Actually, Peter, you will deny me tonight. Not just once, but three times. Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny knowing me three times." Peter responds more emphatically than before, "NEVAH!!!! I will die with you if I must, but I will never deny you!"

I wonder what Jesus' response was? Did He just pat Peter on the shoulder and say, "Alright, friend." ?  Did Jesus change the subject, maybe start talking about birds or flowers? Or perhaps He launched into a parable as He had done so often. Who knows, but you can bet His heart was aching and wishing that the space between Peter's heart and his actions wasn't so vast.

The next thing we know, we are in the garden with Jesus and Peter, James, and John. Jesus asks them to stay up and pray as He goes off a little further to talk to His Father. Maybe with the echoes of the last conversation still ringing in His mind, Jesus asked that if there was any other way for us to be restored to right relationship with God...if possible, could He not have to endure the sting of this night? Usually, I think of this as a prayer to avoid the cross, to avoid the weight of the sin of the world. And, if that was what He meant...all He meant, than that would still be more than significant. Clearly. But, in this moment, I can't help but think that Jesus was not just thinking of you and me and all the rest of mankind, although certainly He had to have been. I think, perhaps, He was also thinking of the friendships He had spent 3 years building. I wonder if there were memories flashing through His mind as He prayed. Calling the 12. Their faces when he broke that first piece of bread and it grew back into a full loaf. That stormy night on the boat when they woke Him from a nap and were so terrified. The moment when he first saw them "get it". When Peter declared that he knew Jesus was the Messiah. When Peter walked on water. When the 12 were so frustrated by not being able to cast out the demons and wanted so much to do it right. Moments of growth, of fear, hard conversations and crazy man moments of laughter.  Was He remembering in advance? The "memory" that had not yet happened? Was He seeing Peter around the fire telling the girl so fiercely that he did not know Jesus? I am heartbroken just thinking about it. 

And so, Jesus prays, "Father, if there is any other way, let this cup pass." Then He stands up and walks back to where the three friends were left to pray. Jesus finds His deepest friends sleeping. He speaks to Peter, "You are sleeping? It hasn't even been an hour. Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation." He goes back to pray again and then returns to find the three sleeping again. This time it's just awkward. We are told in one account of this story that His time in prayer was so intense that He was sweating blood. Could Peter and the other two see the blood on Jesus' forehead? What do you say to your best friend, and your Lord, when He is sweating blood and you can't seem to stay awake to pray for Him as He asked? It happens a third time, but there is not another chance waiting in the wings. I wonder if they'd had one more try at it, if the three would have found a way to stay awake. I wonder how many times I waited too long to be willing to do whatever it takes... But this time, it is TIME. Jesus is arrested. As if to prove he can actually be a good friend, Peter draws his sword and cuts off a guard's ear.  Again, jumping before he puts on the chute. The guards (after the ear has been miraculously restored by Jesus) lead Jesus away and everyone runs. 

And of course, we all know what happens, right? Just as Jesus said, Peter denied knowing Christ three times...the very same night he had sworn he would NEVER disown Jesus. And Mark 14 says that, as the rooster crowed for the second time, Peter remembered Jesus' words and Peter broke down and cried. 
Have you ever done that? I mean, have you ever realized that you screwed up so royally that there is no imaginable way to salvage the relationship? Maybe you stabbed a friend in the back. Maybe you broke the trust your parents had freely given. Maybe you had an affair and made a mess of your marriage. I don't know. But, most of us probably have some moment where we thought, I can't undo what I have done. And I know for me, there is some stuff that hasn't surfaced...not yet anyways. But there are things that I know...or at least I believe, that if people knew, if that friend knew, if that family member knew, if that church leader knew, that I would never be able to get back the kind of relationship we have now. Imagine the weight of that moment for Peter. He had been so sure, so proud, so emphatic about his loyalty and just a few moments later, he couldn't even stay away to pray for his friend and Messiah. And then, on top of that, he told who knows how many people, that he didn't even KNOW Jesus. 

And the shame crept in. There was no undoing this. There was no going back. Jesus was hanging on a cross, so Peter couldn't even say he was sorry. He couldn't prove his regret. And even if he could, there was no way Jesus could ever love him like before. But oh, my friends, there is a beautiful moment ahead for Peter.

We will pause here for a couple of reasons. One, this post is going to get ridiculously long if I don't stop here. And two, I think it is important for us to sit with this for awhile. I so often sprint through the fields of sorrow so that I can blend in with the crowd of comfort. But let's reflect on the heaviness of this moment. Don't rush past it, friends. Lamentations 3:25-31 says it best:

"The Lord is good for those who wait for Him,
      to the soul who seeks Him.
      It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
      It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

  Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him.
      Let him put his mouth in the dust-
      there may yet be hope.
      Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
      and let him be filled with insults.

  The Lord will not cast off forever."

Questions for today:
1. What is your familiar? It could be a place or a habit or activity, or maybe a person...what is yours?
2. Have you ever, like Peter, been broken by the realization that you cannot undo a mistake? What did you fear in that moment?
3. Are you like me in that you find yourself rushing through the painful parts of life, rushing through conviction? What are some practical ways we can fight this tendency?

Happy Journey!