I wonder sometimes how much I am missing because I am so single-minded in my pursuit of my own personal agenda. What is the voice of my Shepherd saying to me that I can’t hear because I think I know what He’s going to say? Because I know what I want Him to say and have convinced myself that that’s what He is saying?
On Sunday evenings at church we’ve been studying Jesus’ last night on earth through the lens of His clueless disciples, and I have been brought up short time and again by their foolishness and its painful similarity to my own. I wonder how much different their response to the cross would have been if they had just listened to Jesus as He warned them what was coming and tried to prepare them.
How much different would Peter’s response have been if he had spent more time humbly listening and less time brashly arguing? Surely if Peter, James, and John had been paying attention to the heartbreaking grief of their Teacher they would not have fallen asleep when He asked them to pray.
But they didn’t pay attention. They had their idea about what Jesus was going to do– overthrow Rome and destroy all Israel’s enemies and rule in might from Jerusalem. And no matter how much He tried to tell them that He had come to overthrow Satan and to destroy death and sin and to serve and to give His life, the disciples just couldn’t see past their own plans and actually hear Him.
Jesus! You’re not going to die! What are you even talking about?
Jesus! Let us have thrones on Your right hand and Your left!
Jesus! Don’t wash my feet! What are You doing?
Jesus! I will never deny You or leave You alone!
Jesus! We do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?
Zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . .
Don’t worry, Jesus! I’ll just chop off this guy’s ear and everything will be okay! See? I said I’d fight for You!
It would be almost funny, if it weren’t such a painful picture of my own distracted heart. Because these men that Jesus had poured wisdom and love and truth into for three years deserted Him in fear. Though He had taught them and warned them, they were taken completely off guard when the test came, and they failed utterly.
I do not know that man.
When it counted, Peter failed. After all his big words, he denied Christ– not once, but three times; not just with words, but with fierce anger and vulgarity.
Oh, I have been Peter. Because I too have fallen into the trap of thinking I knew what God was doing, and then getting very angry and falling into sin when it turned out that God had a different plan. And looking back I can always see how God has been preparing me for just this— but because I was focused on something else I missed it entirely.
How it must grieve my Lord’s heart when I fail to trust Him, fail to obey, to stand up, to do what is right, though He has been preparing and teaching me for this very thing. I am so thankful for the hope we have. For Peter, the denial and the bitter tears afterwards were what it took to humble him to the depths, and that was exactly where he needed to be.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it is Peter who gives us these words–
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
Humility means not arguing with God. It means serving others, and allowing myself to be last. It means stopping in me tracks when God warns me through His Word or through another person that I am in trouble. It means closing my mouth and listening to what God is saying, regardless of whether it aligns with what I think He should be saying. It means praying when God tells me I should be praying.
And humility means turning back to the Lord when I have sinned. Surely some of the hardest moments of Peter’s life came when He came face to face with the Lord he had betrayed. But for once in his life, Peter came quietly and humbly, and He looked in Jesus’ face and saw– forgiveness. Second chances. Grace upon grace, abounding where all Peter’s sin had left deep craters of guilt and despair and hurt. That grace changed Peter, and when the Holy Spirit filled him, Peter was never the same again.
He was done seeking first place, seeking to be right, seeking to be safe. Peter counted it as a privilege to suffer for the sake of the One who had suffered for him. Finally his priorities and his plans were lined up with God’s, and God used him mightily.
What if I allowed God to take away my blindness, to see what He wants me to see, to hear His words? What if I humbled myself in faith, trusting His mighty hand to guide my life and protect my heart? What if I made God’s agenda my own, and refused to go my own way?
I feel like this might change everything.