Peter and Adventism
And when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Peter would never forget the night his master allowed himself to be given over into the hands of evil men. Everything about that night did not go well for him. Things took a negative turn at the last supper when, amidst his shame for fighting for position, he tried to refuse Christ’s washing of his feet. As the supper progressed his pride was further injured by Christ’s words prophesying of his pending denial. Then in the garden he had failed to watch and pray even after Jesus repeatedly pled for his support. Again, an hour later as he watched his master being taken, he was rebuked for drawing his sword in Christ’s defense.
It was a very confused and hurting Peter who stood outside the judgement hall that night. Too proud and scared to enter yet his genuine love for his master still drew him. Then the climax of the night’s horror came when after denying his Lord repeatedly the cock crowed and he met the eyes of his master. It was the fact that he read only unfailing love in Jesus Face that broke his heart. That look between Jesus and Peter before the cross was one which reminded Peter that Jesus knew him completely and yet completely loved him. Undoubtedly the words flashed through Peter’s mind as he beheld his bruised and bleeding Lord that Jesus had prayed for him that Satan could not have him and that his faith would not fail.
In a sense, two disciples “betrayed” their Lord that night. Both Peter and Judas came face to face with their true selves, yet Peter’s faith did not fail, just as Jesus had prayed. Peter’s deep anguish and weeping came from the knowledge that Jesus loved him in spite of his betrayal while Judas was only consumed with the weight of his sin apart from the knowledge of such a love. Peter and Judas both suffered from the same disease but the reason they met dramatically different fate’s was because one embraced a relationship with the Lord and the other refused it. Peter’s love for his master ultimately overpowered his love for self. His story ends so consumed with God’s glory that he did not even feel worthy to die in the same manner, requesting that they crucify him upside down in honor of his Lord.
Peter’s journey out of self was life-long. We get a hint of this the final time Jesus shared a meal with him that morning on the beach. Jesus famously asked Peter three consecutive times whether or not Peter loved him, likely in relation to his thrice denial that fateful night. If we read carefully, however, Jesus is speaking directly to Peter’s greatest weakness with his first question. “Do you love me more than these...” Jesus is essentially asking Peter if he still thinks he is above his brothers? The very cancer of self that led to that terrible night is what Jesus addresses first. Amazingly, Peter’s first answer is “Yes.” Jesus repeatedly asks this question until finally in anguish Peter cries out, “you know everything Lord, you know that I love you.”
After this Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he would one day also be stretched out on a cross. Peter’s response to this revelation was to look across at John and ask about his fate, and Jesus says to him, don’t concern yourself with John, follow me! Peter was not miraculously cured of his cancer through the death and resurrection of his Lord though he was deeply impacted. Later we read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that Peter again in a public and embarrassing way allowed self to take his eyes off of his Lord when abandoning the gentile believers for fear of the Jewish ones. We know how Peter’s story ends, it ends in victory, but it does us well to take an honest look at his journey.
Jesus longs to pour out his spirit upon us in full measure. Only one thing stands between us and sounding the loud cry, self. God will not share his glory with men, not because he is a glory monger, but because he alone is worthy. The entire Controversy began over the question of who deserves the glory, and the conclusion of the matter is that God alone is the source of all love, life, and goodness. Not unto us oh lord, but unto you be the glory. If we would but relinquish our desire to carve out a little piece of the credit for our ourselves the rain would fall.
God’s children in the end will not have their eyes on self or even upon great men, their eyes and ears will be the Lord’s. They will follow the Lamb where ever he leads. They will have a testimony of God’s goodness and will have the love of the Father pouring forth in commandment keeping power. Some how we have taken great pride in being God’s “commandment keeping” people all the while expecting brownie points based on a form of godliness. How many times have we looked forward to the day when all the world would see that we were right? When we lose sight of our superiority and simply long for the return of our beloved then our message will gain an audience.
To be frank, I struggled with genuinely longing for Christ’s return because I was still struggling with sin. I was banking my hopes on the idea that some how the later rain was going to finish what I was working so hard to accomplish. The idea had been pounded into my head that some day I was going to be part of an elite group of perfect people showcasing the ability to overcome sin. Somehow I got the idea that it was about victory rather than relationship. I get it now that self-denying relationship is the victory and that sin losing its power is simply a consequence of this. This is what has been happening in my life these last few years but only recently have I found language to articulate what has been going on.
The last book of the Bible is a Revelation of the triumph of the Lamb in winning the hearts of men and putting an end to sin. It is not a book about the glory of man. Oh Lord forgive us, deliver us from our pride. We aren’t yet willing to let you have all the glory, please pray for us that our faith will not fail. I feel we are being sifted like wheat and it doesn’t look good. As a world-wide church we aren’t even loving each other let alone your children outside our walls. Please remove the flag of superiority we have run up our pole and replace it with one of self-doubting, God-confident, meek and lowly love.
Peter’s story gives me hope Father. His sifting looked pretty terrible as well, but faith prevailed because of relationship. Establish among us genuine honest connections between our hearts and yours. Teach us that you are safe to be honest with, teach us that even in our darkest hour we will never find disgust in your eyes but only unconditional love. Open our eyes to our true condition, overcome our pretended righteousness. You alone can do this, nothing is too great for you. We know you are a God of free will and choice and so we tremble at the possibilities, but we cry out as intercessors on behalf of a church through which you intended to reveal your beauty at such a time as this. For your name’s sake, and for your glory alone, be lifted up in our midst that the whole world may know there is a God in Heaven who in his very nature is nothing but unconditional love.
Still Seeking Your Face,