Saturday, June 24, 2023

Are You Showing Up?

Suggested Reading: Matthew 26:31-56

I've recently decided that the Apostle Peter has gotten a bad rap. Yes, Peter was a loudmouth and sometimes started talking before his brain or filter kicked in. Yes, Peter was brash and impulsive, chopping off ears that Jesus had to reattach. Yes, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus, going so far as to swear at one point. And even later, yes, Peter acted like something of a hypocrite when, after being the one who announced that even the Gentiles could be saved, he withdrew from them to stay in favor with the legalistic Jewish Christians and had to be called out by Paul. But I've decided Peter has gotten a bad rap, especially about denying Jesus.

In Matthew 26, when Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him, Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same (Matthew 26:35, ESV). Notice that Peter wasn't the only one to proclaim loudly that he would die with Jesus before denying him. All the disciples said the same. But when Judas came with the temple guards and Jesus was arrested, all the disciples fled. And when the story picks up again, Peter and John are the only ones who've come back. John was allowed into the place where Jesus was being tried because the priests recognized him but Peter watched from a distance. None of the other disciples even showed up at the trial. Peter denied Jesus. But Peter was the only disciple who put himself somewhere it might have happened. The priests already recognized John and the other disciples fled and stayed away. Peter was the only disciple who ended up in a position where he could either take a stand for Jesus or deny him. He failed the test but he at least showed up.

Sometimes I wonder how much showing up we do. We hang out in our Christian groups, run in our Christian circles, shop in Christian bookstores and patronize shops with Christian fish on their signs. If we can afford to, we put our kids in Christian private schools or home school them. When we are really adventurous, we invite unbelievers to come to church with us, bringing them into our safe place in order to share the Gospel with them. What would happen if we instead started going out, putting ourselves in uncomfortable places where people might look at us funny and say, "Are you with that Jesus fellow?" How many of us would chicken out? How many of us would find an excuse not to say anything or to make a quick exit?

Peter showed up and failed. But when the day of Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to preach the Gospel in the languages of the world, it wasn't those disciples who didn't deny Jesus who got to stand up and lead five thousand men to faith in Christ. That privilege went to the guy who had failed but who had actually shown up, to the guy who had been tested in the fires of failure and knew how much he needed to brace himself against his own fear.

Failure for Christ is not final. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14, ESV). But we do have to show up. We have to put ourselves in a position where success or failure are even options. Otherwise, not denying Christ doesn't mean we're faithful, just that we haven't even tried.

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