Luke 22:61-62 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
It would be hard to imagine anything more devastating for a believer than this. However, we all fall short of our aspirations at times. Many people have pointed out the parallels and the differences between Peter and Judas. Both denied Jesus and both realized they were in the wrong, but Judas tried to stay in control, and he killed himself in an act of self-centered contrition. (Suicide is always self-centered.) Peter, on the other hand, wept bitterly but still left himself in God’s hands, letting God determine his fate. 1 Corinthians 15:5 indicates that Peter got a personal visitation from Jesus after His resurrection, gloriously depicted in Don Francisco’s song, He’s Alive! I am convinced that was because God knew the depth of his humility and his repentance, in stark contrast to Judas’ trying to deal with his situation on his own. Many people have speculated about Judas’ motives for what he did. One of the kindest scenarios was that he was trying to force Jesus to demonstrate His power so that the Romans would be overthrown, but even that betrays the fundamental sin of man trying to take the place of God, to be in control. We all get in such trouble when we do that! Most often it’s not active rebellion, but rather simply ignoring God and trying to live without Him. We can’t do that, since every breath is a gift of His grace, but we like to think we can.
I am tempted in this area just like everyone else, so sometimes God has to allow things into my life to show me I’m not in control. Whether those things are pleasant or unpleasant, their purpose is to remind me to take my eyes off of myself and get them back on my Lord. I remember frequently my utter devastation when the Lord figuratively tapped me on the shoulder back in 1972 and, when I turned, held up a mirror for me to see the state of my soul. All I could do was fall to my knees and cry out, “My Lord and my God!” I feel a considerable empathy for Peter! Since that day my road hasn’t been straight nor my progress consistent, but I have grown, and I have learned the difference between remorse and repentance. Both Judas and Peter had great remorse, but only Peter carried that through to repentance, changing his behavior and casting himself on the mercy of God. As a pastor I have seen too much remorse pretending to be repentance. The difference becomes clear over time. As John the Baptist told people, genuine repentance bears fruit. (Matthew 3:8) I am not to go around accusing people of remorse without repentance, but I am to speak the truth in love so that they won’t deceive themselves.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that You know what is going on in each person’s heart and mind. Help me be honest with myself, and use me to open people’s eyes so that they may be honest with themselves, to be a people fully and totally committed to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!