art: ‘Peter after his denial’, charcoal on canvas, by: Nalani Cushing
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.
1 I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
5 This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus told 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.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
And all the other disciples said the same.
* * * * *
Have you ever thought about how you might have fared in Peter’s shoes?
His mentor and friend who he has spent three years with – fishing, feeding, learning how to pray and how to cast out demons and diseases – has just now foretold that all his disciples would ‘fall away.’
I think I too would have been offended at the lack of faith Jesus had in me. Ha!
I flatter myself, (in my own eyes as the Psalmist says.)
The disciples too – all of them – said the same thing Peter said,
“I would die for you before I disowned you!”
We know what happens with Peter. Sure enough just as Jesus told him – just as he was saving his own face, the rooster crowed.
At least Peter heard it.
He was instantly brought to his knees in bitter tears.
He had just done exactly what he said he would not do.
He had disowned his friend.
He had denied Jesus.
Thankfully Jesus does not seem phased by this denial.
It’s as if he knew it would happen and was already prepared for it.
He doesn’t even chide them for it; rather, he gently tells them the truth of the matter.
He doesn’t snuff out the smoldering wick.
He then reassures them that he will go before them.
They will follow him yet again.
Even in the midst of sin and failure, we too must remember the gospel promises of God.
The psalmist displays this stark contrast between the wicked and the righteous.
The wicked are so infatuated with their own selves that they couldn’t even see their own sin. Even on their beds they don’t meditate on the Lord and his mercy (cf. Psalm 63.5-8) but devise evil schemes and do not reject sinful thoughts.
The righteous however is caught up in the awe and grandeur of God – whose loyalty and love cannot be measured; vaster than the skies! God, whose justice and mercy is deeper than the deepest waters. God, from whom all creatures great and small receive protection and joy and abundant life and true light!
Therefore the Psalmist ends with this prayer: “Continue your steadfast love to those who know you… let not the foot of arrogance come upon me.” In other words, we can pray, “Lord! Keep me enamored in your love, keep me from being enamored with myself!”
Praise to Lord Jesus that he is the good shepherd through whom God has called us and takes us by the hand and leads us!
This holy week, as we anticipate and reflect on the cross of Christ, may we not become numb to our selfish tendencies and our sin – may we not flatter ourselves out of recognizing our need for forgiveness and righteousness.
May we always remember and look to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!