I am reminded of Peter on the night of the Lord’s trial before his crucifixion. He courageously declared that even if all were offended and abandoned the Lord he would not and that should it come to it he was prepared to die rather than deny the Christ. (Mark 14:29-31). This is the same Peter which with the Lord walked on water, the same which declared to Jesus “thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The same Peter to whom the Lord promised the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” But still a man. The Lord tells Peter “before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”
When the mob came to take the Lord Peter would do what he must to prove his zeal. In the defence of his master he drew his sword. Peter must have known that it would be unlikely he could walk away from the encounter that would surely follow. But the Lord intervenes he rebukes Peter and heals the man whom Peter injured. In the next moment the mob was leading Jesus away and Peter with bloodied sword is left helpless and confused.
Peter follows the mob with another disciple to the palace of the High Priest. Here he watches as the saviour is tried in a mockery of justice. Over the course of the night Peter is accused several times of being a disciple of Christ and his response to each accusation has become for me some of the most difficult verses of scripture to read:
And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilæan, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
Mark 14: 66-72.
I think many of us can place ourselves in Peter’s shoes. Determined to do the right thing until we haven’t. How bitter that must have been. If heaven rejoices over even one repentant sinner this story illustrates why; truly heaven must have wept with Peter and must weep with us in our several defeats.
The Lord taught Peter a powerful lesson in humility but also in what is required of a follower of Christ, repentance and conversion.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Repentance and conversion is a change of heart of thought of feeling. As we see from the experience of Peter it requires pain and sacrifice and humility. There is beauty in the analogy to be “sifted as wheat.” I understand that to sift wheat they would pour the wheat out and it would be tossed in the air. The wind would carry away the lighter chaff and the heavier wheat would fall back to the earth. In the end the wheat would be purified. Satan would sift us as wheat but it is up to us to choose to let go of the chaff.