Love and Fear in the Believer

The_Denial_of_St._Peter_-_Gerard_Seghers_-_Google_Cultural_InstituteThe Denial of Saint Peter, an oil-on-canvas painting by Gerard Seghers, dating to around 1620–1625 and now held by the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Mark 14: 66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Simon Peter’s thrice-denial of Christ is a passage all believers are familiar with, perhaps overfamiliar. The apostle’s great passionate love for Christ had been his undoing in the past, but not like this moment of “deconstruction” and fragmentation, which had brought him face to face with his fear. He loved Jesus. But fear was still his master. That is the heart of understanding Peter who loved Jesus so and failed Jesus so and understanding ourselves so many times. Then the closing discourse, “Peter, do you love me?” showing that Jesus was not unappreciative of Peter’s great love (and knowing that feeding His sheep would take all the courage to overcome fear that Peter didn’t have in spite of his love, only this time Peter would have the Helper, the Holy Spirit). I thought I’d heard and read it all about Peter but how is it that this great contradiction in Peter that finally broke him down had never been brought out so clearly and profoundly??! Praise God he was “remade”!

(For this insight, I’m most indebted to the sermon, “Fearful Followers, Faithful Jesus.”)

Romans 8: 15-16

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

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