Life is full of surprises…Anyone who has experienced life for any length of time is clearly aware of the “suddenlies” that can happen, changing life as he or she knows it forever. Tom Hank’s character in the movie Forest Gump famously quoted “My momma always said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Indeed, we do not. These surprises can be for the better, bringing joy. Or they can be challenging, a trial that we must face and go through, in order to grow and build character. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we must hold onto our faith and trust, knowing that He has the best plans for our life.
Today is Easter, marking the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, forever conquering sin and death, reconciling us forever with the Father. In the past few days, while observing Passion Week, I think of all the “suddenlies” that took place during the very first one, beginning with Palm Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, while the enthusiastic crowd cheered “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” while spreading out their cloaks and Palm branches before Him. Suddenly, He entered the temple, and angered by those who were taking advantage of earnest Jews trying their best to serve God, He threw over the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. All of this, of course, got the attention of the religious leaders of the law, and the Pharisees, and thus led to the beginning of their questioning of the authority of Jesus. If you went to church today, you most likely heard the events that took place 2000 years ago. There was another lesson while reading about the crucifixion that caught my attention, which involved Peter and his denial of Jesus on that fateful Friday that changed eternity.
What stood out to me, was how Peter reacted to all of the “suddenlies” that took place during that time. Peter was no doubt committed to Jesus. He left everything to follow Jesus as His disciple. He and his brother Andrew were the first to be called. It’s obvious throughout the gospel that Peter was a strong character who was often led by his emotions. He was the first one to declare Jesus the Christ in Mark 8:29, only to take Jesus aside moments later to rebuke Him for talking about what He was to endure. He was responding as any human would, but Jesus strongly rebuked Peter “Get behind me Satan! he said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men!” in verse 33. Peter got the message, though he didn’t understand.
At the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and offered the wine, telling the disciples what it symbolized, He to told them that they would all fall away on account of Him, as scripture foretold. Peter assured Jesus that he would never fall away. Even after Jesus told Peter by that very night, before the rooster crows he would deny Jesus three times, Peter declared “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:35) I don’t know about you, but I can almost hear the sincerity of Peter’s words, and his desperation of trying to convince Jesus of his commitment to Him. Hours later, what Jesus said would happen came to pass and Peter denied Him three times. It’s not that Peter wasn’t being honest at the time. Peter reacted to the events of Jesus arrest, as any human would. It’s easy to say you’ll “never do this or that” before it happens, but when reality hits, fear is a very powerful force to be reckoned with. Peter was afraid. Even after walking with Jesus for three years, seeing countless miracles and healings, and listening to Jesus’s teaching, Peter could only respond with what was in his heart, his own will and the logic of mortal man.
The good news is, that was only temporary. Peter wouldn’t stay that way, because you see, the next day, Jesus died on the cross. To the things of men, that was terrible, but to the things of God, it was VICTORY! The veil in the temple separating the Holy of Holies was torn in half, and man was now reconciled to God. Jesus not only bore the sins of the world at that time, He became sin, causing God the Father to forsake Him. HALLELUJAH! We will never be forsaken by God because of Jesus. We have a relationship with our loving Father, that was only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus. When word got back to Peter that Jesus had risen, he was the first disciple to run to the tomb. Although John outran him and arrived there first, Peter was the one to enter into the tomb to see the strips of linen lying by themselves, no Jesus in sight, and he left wondering what happened (Luke 24:12). Later that evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples who were behind locked doors in fear of the Jews, and they were all overjoyed!
Jesus appeared to the disciples a third time, after an unsuccessful fishing trip. Jesus called to them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they experienced a miraculous catch of fish. After hauling them in, they ate with Jesus, and Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, allowing him to once again declare his love and commitment to Jesus. Jesus said each time to Peter’s response “Feed my sheep.” Each affirmation canceled out Peter’s earlier denial, reinstating Peter and Jesus prophesied how Peter would glorify God in his death. However, Peter once again showed his human spirit by asking about how John would die, which Jesus basically said that wasn’t any of Peter’s business to know. There was still one more “suddenly” that Peter would have to go through, to become all He was meant to become on this earth.
Before Jesus ascended up to Heaven, he instructed the disciples to go and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the days following Jesus’s ascension, Peter stood up among the believers as a leader. They drew lots to replace Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus, and then went to wait in the upper room. It was there, on the day of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit arrived like the sound of a mighty rushing wind, baptizing the 120 followers that were gathered there with fire. They began to speak in other tongues, as the Holy Spirit enabled them. Suddenly, Peter was emboldened to speak to a crowd that had gathered due to the commotion. He spoke with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and three thousand new believers were added to their number, thus marking the beginning of Christianity.
It was a series of events that occurred 2000 years ago, one day at a time, that made the difference for what the Church is today. We still have future one days that will further impact the world. Suddenly one day, Jesus will come back for the church. In the meantime, in our own lives, we can see the one days that can transform us to becoming more like Jesus — personal “one days” that make a difference in lives today. One encounter with God, and the Holy Spirit can make the hardest heart pliable, the fearful heart bold, and the faint in heart strong. From this point on, this side of the cross, Peter never again fell away from his faith, and carried the message of Jesus Christ, as a rock that the church could be built upon, that the gates of Hell could not prevail against…ever! (Matthew 16:18)
When you pray and seek to be filled with God’s power from on High, you can be confident that the Holy Spirit will empower and equip you, just like Peter, and you will have the ability to overcome anything that comes against you.
If you haven’t first prayed to receive salvation, please pray the following:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that I’m a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent
Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood. I thank You for Your love and mercy. I make You my Lord and Savior. Amen.
Have a Blessed and Happy Resurrection Day, everyone!