I started my day with Lisa Harper’s Believing God, a study from the Books of Luke and Acts. I just read Luke 22:24-34, 54-62 and 24:12, 34. These verses follow Simon (also called Peter), who was one of the 12 Apostles, and his actions when Jesus was arrested, crucified and resurrected.
Just before Jesus’ arrest, during the Last Super, Jesus told Simon that Satan would test him. Jesus said, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
That made me think of a friend who was questioned whether she had the right to turn back to Jesus now that she needed Him, after drifting away. In case you ever have any lingering doubts, the story of Simon and his relationship with Jesus answer that question loud and clear!
Jesus knows when we will be weak and distant, caught up in the world and life circumstance. He also knows if and when we will turn back to Him! He is there waiting… “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” was His command to Peter, which is exactly his command to us!
Simon responded with, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
When Jesus was arrested later that day, Simon followed at a distance, settling by a fire in the courtyard. When others around the fire accused Simon of being with Jesus, three times he denied even knowing him. With the third denial Jesus, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Simon. Then Simon remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you wild disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
It is hard to imagine the anguish of that day for Simon. From the fellowship of the Last Super where he was among the 12 Apostles disputing which of them was considered to be the greatest, to pledging to go with Jesus to prison and to death, then locking eyes with Jesus as he heard Simon denying that he even knew him.
There are times when I fail to be or do all I’ve intended in response to my faith in Jesus Christ. The disappointment in myself, the regret and conviction that follow, can leave me broken with a sorrowful soul… and ineffective in my walk of faith. Looking at this passage gives me great hope and encouragement. Jesus knows that I will flounder. His own disciple, so dear to him, denied him three times – and Jesus knew he would. He expected it and told him the proper response when it happened, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
That is AWESOME encouragement for us imperfect, sinful followers of Christ who never seem to be able to live up to our convictions!
Can you imagine how Simon/Peter’s mind was swirling when word came three days after the crucifixion that the tomb was empty? Luke 24:12 describes Peter’s response. While the others did not believe, “Peter, however, go up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
And look at the love Jesus has for Simon, who denied him when he appeared to need him most. Luke 24:34 says, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” That is all that is recorded about their reunion. Can you picture the love shared, the confession and restoration between Simon and Jesus? Jesus sought Simon and blessed him with forgiveness and renewed, confident faith. Simon responded as commanded before the denial, spending the rest of his life strengthening his brothers – just like we are to strengthen each other through our fellowship as his living church!
What a beautiful truth to share for Christmas!