It had been a long, and traumatic, few hours. He had had little or no sleep, and now, as the new day dawned, he felt totally hopeless and full of despair. How could this have happened? It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I wonder if this is how Peter felt on the first Good Friday morning. Did he feel he had blown it with Jesus? He had been so sure that Jesus was the Son of God, in fact, Jesus had congratulated him for saying this, and, what’s more, Jesus had told them that He had come to heal and save. They had realised eventually that Jesus was God’s Messiah. But now it had all gone wrong, and Peter had done nothing to help, in fact, he probably felt he had made it worse. He might have been agonising over his weakness and cowardice. How could he have let his friend and Lord down like that and told terrible lies? Had his actions ruined some vast eternal plan which God had been promising for generations? What could he do now?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and from the twenty first century we can see it all so clearly. We know the wonderful ending to the tragic events of this bleak day. We understand better the intricacies of God’s plan for Jesus. He would die, taking our punishment for sin, but then gloriously rise again to win, for us all, eternal life. But Peter didn’t yet understand the fullness of God’s plan, and, in that moment, Peter only saw what seemed to be his failure and an unchangeable disaster. Surely there was no way back from this fiasco.
It seems Peter wasn’t there as a witness later that day, as Jesus actually died. Did he feel too ashamed to face his friend in His extreme suffering, knowing that he had abandoned him earlier that day? Did the sense of failure he felt after those fateful cock crows stay with him? Did he agonise over his weakness and begin to doubt all he thought he had understood about Jesus?
I wonder if you have ever felt this way. The situation you saw before you seemed hopeless, and you felt you’d failed in some way. The self-doubt gripped you, and you even lost a sense of what was true. Maybe you felt that your failure has been so bad it could have affected some part of God’s plans.
If you have felt like that, then take heart. God’s plans are greater than any failure. On the day after the Sabbath, early in the morning, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her to tell the disciples, and Peter, that He had risen. He mentioned Peter specifically, because he knew how Peter had been feeling. His heart was for Peter. Peter may not have forgiven himself for his mistakes, but Jesus had utterly forgiven him for his sin and human weakness. Later, we know that Jesus restored Peter as His friend, releasing him to grow in confidence and, after receiving the Holy Spirit, to become a man of great courage and boldness, who was able to fulfil all that God called him to.
Today, as we think about the despair that the disciples must have felt when Jesus died, we can sympathise with them, but we can also be hugely encouraged. When things seem most dark, God is working His purposes out. In fact, His most wonderful plan was being achieved in that darkest of hours as Jesus hung on a cross. God has all of the future in His hands, and His will will be done. His plans are often beyond our understanding, but they will never be thwarted by the enemy, by circumstances or by our failings. God has gone ahead. Nothing is a surprise to Him. He is working His purposes out this year, next year and every year.
Prayer: Father God, we thank You that Your good plans for us prevail, despite the way things seem. Thank You most of all for sending Jesus, Your precious only Son, to be our Saviour. On this day, when we especially remember His great sacrifice for each of us, we proclaim, “All hail, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Amen.
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