Before and After

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Don’t we all have a ‘before and after’ experience occasioned by growth? As we look back what do we see? We notice a clear shift, a transformation or a drastic change – both physical and spiritual -- between where we were before and where we are at now. Paul captures such growth in these words: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Simply put, we can call it maturity; but there is more to it than just growing up. It is a question of overcoming our weaknesses, our frailties, and our shortcomings. When things take a critical turn, the implications are that we would have to react immediately before the situation becomes untenable or deteriorates beyond repair.  

Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, had a natural inclination of a leader and therefore had taken up this function among his peers. Though his temperament was rather rash and impulsive, he succeeded in ‘holding the fort’ to the very end throughout his discipleship and apostleship. However, an incident happened prior to the Lord’s crucifixion that put him in very bad light. They were together having the last supper before the Passover feast when Jesus would be crucified. Our Lord Jesus interrupted the dinner and said to them. “This very night, you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Matthew 26:31) Peter was quick to respond; “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33) Was he boasting or was he naively sincere?

“I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (v34) our Lord Jesus affirmed. Peter quipped; “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you. And all the other disciples said the same.” (v.35 ) Peter was not listening to what his Master had to say, he was basking in his own ability and strength. He could not have measured the immensity of the odds that would face him with his natural eyes. Rather than claim strength to overcome, he should have prayed for God’s help. God’s words never fall to the ground. As was predicted Peter denied knowing the Lord Jesus three times. 

“You were with Jesus of Galilee,” a servant girl in the courtyard who recognised him claimed. But Peter vehemently denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you‘re talking about.” Another girl saw him and denounced him as having been in Jesus’ entourage; “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth”. “I don’t know the man!”  Not long afterwards someone said to him; “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” “He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man.” (v. 74) There and then, a rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken. He had to leave the courtyard weeping bitterly. It is commonly said; ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ Paul did just the opposite. He felt awful having denied His Master.

Did this ‘faux pas’ committed by the apostle Peter constitute the end of his career? Would it be an overhanging cloud shrouding his head and signalling his doom? Not really! God is a God of a second chance. The Risen Lord Jesus privately restored him after His resurrection. “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” (Luke 24:34)  Then Jesus publicly reinstated him when he quizzed him three times to get his commitment. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me? Take care of my sheep.” “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”  (John 21:15-17)

Then on the Day of Pentecost, when the crowd that had gathered started asking questions regarding what they had witnessed – because it looked confusing to them -- Peter addressed the crowd which had wrongly attributed the state of affairs to drunkenness. The height of the apostle Peter’s apparent transformation occurred with the healing of a cripple. He was questioned by the authorities and brought before the Sanhedrin, having spent the previous night in jail. Peter stood up and with extraordinary boldness addressed them. “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12) “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that they had been with Jesus.” (v13) Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit to be able to speak in such terms. Such boldness was not any direct effort of his. The Holy Spirit emboldened him.

 Jesus has returned to the Father who sent Him; but He has commissioned the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity to be with us. Under His transforming power, we can accomplish greater deeds than did our Lord Jesus.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Author: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye