ONE OF THE greatest do-overs in the Bible had entirely passed me by until I stumbled across it recently. It features “Peter the Impetuous,” as the disciple known for acting and speaking rashly might best be described.
The night Jesus was arrested, Peter’s mouth wrote a check that his heart couldn’t cover. Hours after proclaiming that he would stand with Jesus “whatever may come,” Peter slunk off into the shadows when he was clocked as one the disciples while hovering on the periphery of the kangaroo court.
As I have observed before, caught between faith and fear that night, Peter’s internal tug of war inspired what may be the saddest sentence in the Bible.
Much has been made of the way Jesus restored Peter after His resurrection. The beach-side encounter in which Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Him—once for each of the denials after His arrest—must have been a balm to his soul.
But while Jesus’s words may have rewoven the broken threads of Peter’s faith, its strength had still to be tested.
Having once tried to hide in the crowd when associated with Jesus, on the Day of Pentecost he stood before a crowd to acknowledge his devotion, and called those listening to repentance. That was certainly bold.
But there was to be an even gutsier expression of his newfound resolution. As the early church continued to grow, Peter and John were arrested for healing a lame man at the temple. The miracle caused a stir, drawing a crowd to which Peter once again preached about the forgiveness of sins to be found in Jesus.
Such was the commotion that Peter and John were arrested and imprisoned overnight. No doubt it reminded them of the time Jesus had been taken away and how things had ended then. However, the next morning they remained undaunted.
Acts 4:5 records how “the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and many others from the high priest’s family.”
It occurred to me the other day that this was not just any old group of religious bigwigs. When Peter the putative Rock crumbled on the night of Jesus’s arrest, it was after he followed the crowd to Annas, who then sent Christ on to Caiaphas.
That time, Peter melted away. But this time, he stood firm, declaring that Jesus had healed the lame man. Furthermore, he went, on, “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
What happened between those two encounters? The coming of the Holy Spirit, as a result of which Peter and the other disciples were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
It makes me reflect on occasions in which I may have folded in the past, like Peter, and whether God might one day provide an opportunity for a similar kind of do-over, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Photo by patrick h. lauke on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND