Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
If there is one story from the cross that brings me to my knees it is the story of Peter. Peter loved Jesus. He really did. Was it a perfect love? Of course not. Part of our problem as humans is we tend to go to extremes. We have all or nothing thinking. We figure if someone loves someone else all should be sunshine and lollipops and if it isn't than obviously they didn't really love the person at all. My son is collecting hockey cards and he consistently comes to me with an old card from players long retired and asks "Dad do you know who this is?" When I say yes he asks "Was he good?" This is to him a simple question. To me it is not. Repeatedly I have tried to explain to him that anyone who gets their face on a hockey card is a good player but that not what he means. He wants to know if they were really good. His next question is "Ok but were they above average?" If I say yes he asks "Were they the best at the time when they played or the best at their position?" Again I try and explain that it isn't that simple. There are several skills involved in playing hockey and each player is stronger or weaker in each of those areas and when you take it all into account it's really difficult to say who is better and by how much. He wants a simple answer to a question that isn't simple.
Peter did deny Jesus exactly the way Jesus said he would. His love was genuine but it was flawed. Fear overpowered love because at that point in his life the very real love he had for Jesus was still growing. Peter didn't even know what pure love was yet. Neither do I. Neither do you. I can read about it. I can define it with words but I can also tell you with complete transparency that I do not have pure love for anyone including my wife and children. Here's the kicker. It's ok.
Jesus knew. He knew the limits of Peter's love. He knew Peter was sincere and honest when he claimed infallible love but He also knew he was wrong. And it was ok. The love that will see us grow into the people God designed for us to be is not our love, it's His love. It was His love for Peter that drew him to Jesus in the first place. The Story is not about heroic humans who love God enough. The Story is about broken people who lay their helplessness on His unfailing and relentless love.
In a strange way, Peter's denial of Jesus was the best thing that ever happened to him. It crushed all his delusions. It ended any warped ideas of grandeur Peter held. He was not a hero. It was not his love that would save Jesus from death. It was Jesus love demonstrated by His death that would open Peter's eyes and heart to a depth of love he had never known even existed.
After the entire painful ordeal was over and Jesus made it more than clear to Peter that He very much still loved him and wanted him to keep going forward as a full disciple Peter's love was still not perfect. And that was ok. The transformation from our dwarfed and warped love to loving like He does is not the result of one giant leap. It does not happen in a moment, a day, or even a decade. And that's ok. It isn't our love that will save us or our children or our neighbours or anyone else. The Story is about His love. A love that will not let us go no matter how flawed we may be.
That's good news. That is God news. "Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons and daughters of God."