‘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.”
Peter had been caught up into a sequence of events of high drama and emotion. He didn’t fully understand what was happening, his emotions were extreme, events were happening at pace. I imagine he must have been going through the same sort of stress as soldiers on a battlefield or paramedics at a major incident. His pulse rate at Jesus’ arrest would have sky rocketed. He would have found himself torn between loyalty to his Lord and an innate impulse of self-preservation. Peter would have had none of the training given to soldiers or paramedics about how to manage themselves in times of sudden emergency. Having sworn undying allegiance to Jesus just hours before he found himself at the point of Jesus’ arrest overtaken by the fight or flight response. When Jesus was arrested Mark tells us, ‘one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.’ Mark14:47 John gives us more detail, ‘Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)’ John 18:10 Luke adds further detail and says Jesus, ‘touched his ear and healed him.’ Luke22:51 Later that night when Peter was confronted as to whether he was a disciple of Jesus fear had set in and Peter denied he had any knowledge of him. I am not sure if any of us know how we would have reacted in the circumstances. I would probably have been one of those who faded into the background having maybe shouted some verbal insult or protest.
If Peter’s level of stress was high, Jesus’ levels were astronomic. Jesus, unlike Peter, knew what was happening and how it was going to work out. Jesus had prepared himself spiritually and his stress levels are indicated by his sweating of blood during his prayer. A rare but known bodily response to extreme stress. Peter on the other hand, with the other disciples, had slept when asked to pray alongside Jesus. Jesus remained self controlled at the moment of arrest and all through the subsequent trial, torture and crucifixion. Jesus’ character did not change, he obeyed his father despite the indescribably high cost, he was merciful to and healed his enemy’s servant Malchus, he spoke the gospel truth to his interrogators, he prayed for forgiveness for those who were crucifying him, he forgave the thief who confessed who Jesus was and his need for forgiveness. Jesus then took upon himself the wrath of God for the sin of Peter and all who trust in him.
When trust breaks down and promises are broken at moments of extreme need, relationships can be irreparably broken. Anger can in those situations override other feelings and rationality. Even if some form of reconciliation is arrived at, how would it be possible to trust someone to react correctly in another situation of high stress. What an amazing act of Jesus then, that the first instruction he gives following his resurrection is to name Peter in particular when he says where the disciples are to go to meet him. More than that he makes Peter the number one person to build the early church.
Jesus’ reaction to Peter is the definition of an act of grace. To give what is not deserved. What made the difference in Peter’s life that he became a transformed person who was no longer controlled by the fight or flight instinct? It was the gift of the Holy Spirit, another supreme act of grace.
How has your life been changed by the grace of Christ?
Chris Tomlin – Your Grace Is Enough