Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 2, 2015

great risk in great love

There is, perhaps, no more resonant character in the Passion narrative (or maybe in the whole of the Bible) than Peter.  He’s been on my mind a great deal lately, and his name keeps popping up in my personal Lent study.  He is a central figure in the central events of this particular day of Holy Week.  The disciples will eat a sacred meal with Jesus and then follow Him to Gethsemane to stand watch (okay, fall asleep) while Jesus prays.  In the middle of both major events, stands Peter armed with a sharp tongue and even sharper sword.

We completely get Peter, right?!  He is so much like we are, or maybe we are so much like he was.  Full to overflowing with good intentions, yet so quick to fall.  So loyal, so well meaning, yet so weak in the flesh.  I came across a truly profound statement in my Lenten readings this year.  It sourced from the occasion of Peter’s bold declaration to Jesus during the Last Seder, but made me wince as I felt the rightful wound it inflicted on my own heart and life.

Peter entryBut great love risks a greater pride.  For the very strength of their loving sometimes dazzles and flatters them – until they trust that love more than its Lord.
Walter Wangerin, Jr. : Reliving the Passion

In a nutshell, this was Peter … and this is me.  The “love” becomes the thing.  The ferocity with which it’s felt and lived out becomes the nearly impenetrable veil that masks our pride.  We do not intend it, rarely do we see it, but it is absolutely real.  I can genuinely say that I have experienced a fleecing of my pride, and it came as an absolute shock.  As the Spirit began to peel away the veiled layers, every single one spoke and showed “love.”  Until, that is, the final one was removed during an early morning walk.  What I saw as that final layer was peeled away stopped me dead in my tracks (literally).  My great love was lovingly revealed as pride.

Even if all fall away, I will not.” Peter says to Jesus. (Mark 14:29)  A tender “Oh Peter,” is the look I see on Jesus’ face as He says “… today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” (Mark 14:30)

In that moment, I believe Jesus looks into the heart of Peter and has compassion for the love which Peter is trusting more than its Lord.  The very next verse says, “But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.

How many times have I said the same in my heart?  How easily I can replace the image of Peter at the Last Seder with myself.  But as true as this is, my meditations on Peter have borne some equally important truths.  As quickly as we may judge Peter for his denials, I believe we should even more quickly acknowledge his presence in the battle.  From the moment Peter made his impassioned declarations to the moment the rooster crowed, Peter was never far from Jesus.  He fell asleep in the garden; He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest; He milled among the crowd as Jesus was dragged from trial to trial; He denied Jesus three separate times … but in every scene, Peter was there.  How gracious God was to Peter, and how gracious He is to us.

As Peter hears the rooster and remembers what Jesus told him the evening before, he broke down and wept.  He did not join the crowd in fear for his own life.  He was overcome with grief and he wept.  The Bible doesn’t go any further in describing this intimate moment, so I’ll be careful not to characterize it or speak my own voice into it.  Can you go to that deep, dark place with Peter?  Can you conjure the torment he must have been experiencing?

Praise God that this wasn’t the final punctuation of Peter’s story, just like the cross is not for Jesus.  There are two future occasions where you see evidence of God’s grace and Christ’s limitless forgiveness.  As the small group of women arrive at the tomb on Resurrection morning, an angel sits waiting inside the tomb.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Mark 16:6-7

Did you take any special notice of who the angels sent the women to look for?  “But go, tell his disciples and Peter.”  Yes, God sees into the repentant heart of Peter and begins the restoration process with an intentional instruction to the angel to speak his name.  But God isn’t finished yet.  Jesus appears to His disciples a few times after His resurrection and before He ascends into heaven.  One of those times, He specifically turns to Peter and asks him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus asks again, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter answers in the same way again.  Jesus asks a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter is a bit hurt, but answers “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (conversation from John 21:15-17)

Jesus sees the hole in Peter’s heart that has yet to heal.  With the same question asked intentionally three times, Jesus heals the hole, restores Peter and invites him to “follow me!”  A broken servant, a healing Savior … what a perfect picture of who we are and who He is.  Tomorrow’s trials, darkness and crucifixion belong to tomorrow.  Stay present in the challenge to not trust your love more than its Lord.



  1. We are so prone to take the love, the gift, the stuff and substitute it for the Person. Thanks for the reminder of that! I love the simple definition of eternal life from Jesus in John 17:3 – “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Father, Son, Spirit might we not fall short of You – true life – as we share in the blessing, goodness and provision of Your “stuff”. Might our joy be “complete” in You! Our Life “full” in You! Our hope “sure” in You! Our peace “perfect” in You! Thanks for sharing Yourself with us! 🙂

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