PETER AND I
By Rev. Dr. Teresa Allissa Citro
Founder and President of Thread of Hope
“The Lord turned around and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.'" -Luke 22:61
Betrayal! A terrible experience to have to go through. Yet, it happens in friendships, relationships, and marriages. It’s a painful and hurtful emotional experience, leaving the victim devastated. There’s nothing worse than having someone break your trust and faith in them. Nobody wants a disloyal person in their lives.
Unfortunately, many of us have been the victims of disloyalty, deception, and dishonesty. Nobody wants to be double-crossed. Nobody wants to be a part of any form or shape of hypercritical and fake relationships. A breach of confidence changes everything. Relationships end or are broken because of these types of behaviors.
Here in this passage, we find Peter, Jesus’ friend and trusted disciple, denying knowing him. Even cursing. Can you even believe it? "Wait," you might ask, "wasn’t it Simon Peter that drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear, when they came to the Garden to arrest Jesus?"
That’s right. It was this very man. Yet, he ends up betraying Jesus. How could this be? Because fear overtook him; that’s how. Peter became paralyzed by fear. He went from this fearless man to a complete coward.
Picture this scene. Jesus is first betrayed by Judas. Oh, that infamous kiss. Then, Peter pretends he doesn’t know Jesus. Yet another betrayal. Two out of his closest friends. Very hurtful indeed.
What’s so unbelievable is that Jesus had predicted, “Peter, before the clock strikes three times, you will deny knowing me.” Peter didn’t agree with that declaration. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you,” was his reply. You would have thought Peter would have been on high alert and on guard. He wasn’t. Before we crucify him, we are just as guilty.
I find this story fascinating. Jesus tells him what he was going to do. He had been warned. You could say he was given a heads up. Yet, he denied that he knew Him all three times. It is like Peter missed the first time. Then came second, and finally the third. All three times, “I do not know this man.”
The prophetic word now had come to pass. He denied the Lord, and Jesus was right there to see and hear it. “Jesus turned around and directly looked at Peter.” Can you just imagine the hurt in Jesus’ eyes? Can you imagine the horrified face of Peter when he realized, “Oh Lord, what have I done?” The piercing eyes of Jesus were looking straight into the eyes of his friend, Peter. A sight I don’t want to see.
When Peter realized what he had done “He left and wept bitterly.” He knew the hurt that he had just caused his friend Jesus. That betrayal cut through Peter’s core. He remembered that moment for the rest of his life.
Let me bring this to life with a personal story. My dad trusted me. I never lied to my parents. Never. This brought me a lot of freedoms. My dad trusted that I wouldn’t do that which I wasn’t allowed to do. My parents took pride about this in me. And then.....
I grew up with an in-ground pool in our backyard. Nine feet deep with a diving board. I love the water. The first thing I learned was to hold my breath for a very long time underwater. I would hold contests with my brothers, cousins, and friends on how long we could hold our breath underwater. I won those contests. Then, I learned to dive. Finally, I learned how to jump very high in the air and flip myself up in the air before diving into the pool. I learned how to flip backwards in the air, I learned how to flip and do a cannonball. Get the picture?
My parents gave me an order. I was not allowed to dive off the diving board with no supervision. I was not allowed to go to the deep end without others in the pool. I was 17 years old. My brothers were with their friends, my parents were at work. My grandmother was home. I decided to go swimming. Once in the pool, I couldn’t resist the temptation. I decided to practice my flips up in the air backwards. What I wanted to do was try to flip twice in the air. I got to the tip of the board and tried to get the board to push me high into the sky.
I thought I did it, but, I didn’t. I was too close to the board. On my way down, my foot hit the diving board. The pain was excruciating. I was now on the bottom of that pool and my foot hurt so bad, I couldn’t move it. I thought I broke my foot. I struggled to get myself up. My Nanna figured I was in the pool. She came to yell at me, but at that second she saw my foot hit the diving board. I could hear her screaming, “God, save her life.” She couldn’t swim. She thought I would drown.
I was struggling at the bottom of the pool. Finally, I got myself up and out of the pool. She helped me get in the house, threatening that she was going to tell my parents. I went straight to bed, in physical pain, and traumatized from almost drowning. My foot was swollen. My mom had to leave work. I thought that I had broken my foot. Thank God my foot was just very badly bruised. It was a miracle really. But that night, I saw the disappointment and anger in my dad’s face.
“How could you disobey your mother and me? Didn’t we clearly tell you it’s dangerous to swim alone? Didn’t we tell you diving without your brothers was prohibited? You almost drowned! You scared your grandmother. You're 17 years old. We taught you better than this. I cannot trust you again.” Oh, that statement. “I cannot trust you again.” As his brown piercing eyes locked onto mine. I can still see his disappointed face. He calmly said, “You can no longer go in the pool until your mother or I am home. If you dare to defy us I will fill that pool up with dirt. Capisci? ("Understand?" in Italian. A very strong word in the Italian language. You ever watch The Godfather?) I no longer trust you.”
I started crying hysterically. My dad just left the room. I cried myself into a huge headache. My mom then came to talk to me. “Daughter, we love you. Today you hurt your father and me. We trusted you. We believed in you. You betrayed us and you broke our trust. We are disappointed. Your behavior almost cost our family a tragedy. Very disappointed. You have to earn our trust back. You are no longer trustworthy.” Oh, I can still remember this scene.
I stuck by my dad’s side like glue for the rest of the summer. In the morning and evening, I would go outside with him as he tested the water and added the chlorine. I went outside with him as he vacuumed the pool. I went everywhere with my dad and showed him that I could be trusted. I did every single thing that my dad told me to do. I didn’t even go into the backyard at all. I didn’t ask if I could go into the pool when they got home. I waited for my parents to ask me. I couldn’t stand the fact that my dad said he couldn’t trust me. I was completely heartbroken and extremely embarrassed.
Jesus, after His resurrection, restored Peter. I love the way that Jesus did it. He came to Peter, on the shore, in the morning. He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He asked this question three times. Isn’t that interesting? Peter denied Him three times. Jesus asked him three times. Until Peter said, “Lord you know I love you.” Jesus then said, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was telling Peter, I can trust you to care for my people. I know your heart. I can trust you to care for those I put under your care.
My dad did the same for me. The following year, he and my Mom were going to New York. It was on my birthday weekend, in August. My dad gave me the biggest surprise. It was my 18th birthday. He said, “You can invite your friends and you can have a birthday party. I trust you to do the right things.” Can you believe it?
My dad left me in the care of my grandmother and allowed me to have a birthday party with both guys and girls. I had a curfew up to midnight. He left me with barbeque meats and everything that I needed to celebrate my 18th birthday. I invited 50 of my friends and I did exactly as my dad instructed. My dad called me at 12:15 AM. I proudly told my dad everyone left at midnight and I was in my room and in my bed. “Ok, good. You did well. Here’s your mother.” My Mom got on the phone, “Daughter, you have a great birthday? Everything alright? Your father and I love you very much and we know we can trust you. Thank you for your obedience.”
I understand how Peter felt in his bitter cry. I understand how he felt when his eyes met Jesus’ eyes. I understand his statement, “You know I love you.” I understand the pain, embarrassment, and disappointment in himself. I understand that moment of reconciliation and the joy of being trusted again. The joy overtaking the sorrow. The feeling of pride instead of shame. The love over the hate of what happened. I identify with Peter.
This is the most incredible thing about Jesus’ love. No matter what you have done, you can be restored. You can experience forgiveness. You can feel joy again. Jesus’ forgiveness is everything. It offers a fresh start and a new beginning. He is the Master Restorer. Get this, He throws our sins into the deepest of oceans, never to be remembered again. “As far as the east is from the west.” He forgives, pardons, and forgets all the wrongs we have done. This humbled me.
Praise & Worship: Michael W Smith - Let it Rain - YouTube
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