In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 22: 54-62
“Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times – yes, deny three times that you know me, Peter.” These were shocking words from Jesus to his much beloved Simon. His retort to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” was genuinely spoken, but never came true.
Instead, by the charcoal fire pit, after they seized Jesus and led him away and into the house of the high priest, Peter sat with the others. In the middle of the courtyard he was confronted by a young servant girl seated near the firelight. She looked carefully at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. As quickly as that, he spoke his first renunciation.
A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But he denied it a second time. About an hour later, another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just after this exasperated response the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him at the supper table. And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter’s impetuous denials were typical to his rather spontaneous way of living. Peter was always the most passionate one of the Twelve. He was the one who tried walking on water but fell instead. He was the one who seemed quickest to speak and slowest to listen. He was the one who wanted to erect shelters at the transfiguration. He was the focus of the foot washing ceremony when he first denies needing his feet washed and then asks that not only his feet but his hands and head be washed as well.
Peter was a leader among the disciples, his name always listed first. He was in the core group of three disciples, including James and John. He was the first to perceive Jesus as Messiah, first to be called by name by Jesus, first to confess his sinfulness, and first to promise never to desert Jesus. Jesus made a radical difference in Peter’s life, and his allegiance and alliance seemed unbreakable. Until his denial.
Jesus loves Peter and keeps extending his outstretched arms of love to his beloved friend. He reinstates Peter post-resurrection at another charcoal fire pit, this time by the water’s edge when Peter three times says that he loves Jesus and promises to feed his sheep and tend his lambs. From the fire pit of disgraceful denial to the fireplace of disarming devotion: Peter, dear Peter, reinstated companion of Jesus despite taking a few impulsive tumbles along the way.
Behold Jesus loving his hotheaded denier back into intimate friendship; believe that even a denial of Jesus can be forgiven; belong to the fallen who stand once more because of the forgiving cross of Christ; become an affectionate lover of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even after the rooster crows thrice.