A Truly Black FridayMonday, December 1, 2014
I avoid Black Friday store shopping at all costs. There is not a deal good enough to get me to camp out and storm the doors to vanquish my shopping foes. I don't even like the name Black Friday.
It makes me think of a truly black Friday that we most often ponder at Easter. We have re-branded that day as Good Friday but there was nothing good about that day for the early followers of Jesus. Picture the overwhelming despair of those who had dropped everything to follow this amazing teacher and prophet. There could not have been a blacker Friday or sadder Saturday for those disciples of the long hoped for Redeemer. I cannot fathom their emotions.
Leading up to that Black Friday I relate most to the blusterous and impulsive Apostle Peter. He talked a great game as I often do. He was absolutely sure about his steadfast devotion to Jesus. He knew he would be the one that would be there till the end.
You know the story. Jesus told Peter exactly what was going to happen.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 22:31:34, NLT)
As per usual Peter went for bravado instead of hearing the sweet encouragement from Christ. Jesus tells Peter that He has pleaded for him in prayer that his faith would not fail. He told Peter that he would repent and that he would be the one to strengthen his brothers going forward. He let lim know it was going to be okay. But Peter was too busy proclaiming what he would do when the moment of crisis arrived. You can count on me Lord!
On that Black Friday a frightened and confused Peter was asked two times if he was associated with the so called "King of the Jews". Twice he proclaimed that he had nothing to do with Jesus. And then it happened again.
About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:59-62, NLT)
I try to imagine what that look from the Lord might have been. In my early days of performance based faith I pictured a condemning countenance directed at the weak willed Peter. I believe I was wrong. I suspect that Jesus looked at the fearful Peter with tenderness and sadness. He knew what Peter would become. He knew that through this spectacular failure of a man that His grace would restore Peter and he would help build a church that would change the world.
I imagine Peter's sleepless Friday night. I picture the agonizing Saturday as he alternately felt shame and hopelessness. In that paralyzing darkness the greatest news of history was about to be announced. Jesus has risen! Luke included this little detail in his Gospel account.
“The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” (Luke 24:34, NLT)
Jesus knew his friend desperately needed grace. To quote my friend Bart Millard of MercyMe I can only imagine that moment. Did Peter fall on his face and beg forgiveness? I would imagine it started there. But what I also picture is the Lord Jesus spreading his arms wide and enveloping Peter in the biggest, longest and most healing hug ever. I imagine Peter's body melting into the arms of grace. His shame and sin covered by the finished work of Jesus.
I think about that a lot when I have my moments like Peter when I have way more bluster than trust. When I feel shame and doubt and fear I remember that Jesus sought out the one who betrayed Him three times to lavish him with grace. When I feel like I have finally reached the end of the patience of Jesus and that He must surely be fed up with me I remember that moment. No matter how far I stray or how often I sin I know that Jesus waits with open arms to lavish me with a long and healing hug of loving grace. He knows what I can become. Jesus knows that He can use a nearly total mess like me if I trust Him. That is pretty good news to start the week.