"Peter's Denial" by Otto Dix - 1960
TO CHEW ON: "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!' So he went out and wept bitterly." Matthew 26:75
Peter wept for good reason. Not only had he let himself down, but he had let Jesus down and this mere hours after declaring, "even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble" - Matthew 26:33.
His trip-up wasn't just a momentary lapse either. When given a chance to reverse his disloyalty he had nailed it down with an oath, then dusted off his colourful fisherman's vocabulary to dance around it with curses and swearing.
When he heard the rooster crow, he remembered. It's almost as if he was temporarily insane. But that cock crow pulled him back to reality and deep, deep remorse.
His story and other instances of remorse following stumbles in the Bible teach us some valuable lessons:
1. Anyone can fall.
David, who was called a "man after God's own heart," indulged in adultery with Bathsheba and then committed murder to cover it up. He felt similar deep remorse. His feelings are recorded in Psalm 51.
2. It's important to feel remorse in time.
Proverbs 5:7-14 and Ezekiel 7:14-16; 36:31 talk about being remorseful too late, when the situation is lost or when life is all but over.
3. Remorse without repentance is dangerous.
The writer of Hebrews talks about Esau (who was full of regret after trading his birthright for a bowl of stew) as having remorse that didn't fruit into anything good (Hebrews 12:17). Neither did Judas's remorse at betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3,5).
Fortunately, Peter's remorse took a different path. He and Jesus were reconciled and he was even able to extract from that experience of stumbling a triumphant theme:
"...you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple...I am not immune from stumbles. You probably aren't either. Let's determine, though, to learn from those falls and to return quickly to Jesus with remorse and repentance, knowing that there is for us, like there was for Peter, a place in God's "spiritual temple."
'He is the stone that makes people stumble,
the rock that makes them fall.'
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people..." (NLT from 1 Peter 2:4-10)
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live alert to situations that would stumble me. When I fall, help me to get up and return to you not only with remorse, but also with repentance. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.