Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

I Have A Secret

I have a secret. You may have the same one. I’d like to convince myself that it’s not a big deal, but it certainly has shaped the choices I make. I might even say that, unbeknownst to me, this secret has affected my relationship with God, that feeling of “closeness.” “Has it really,” you ask, “that little thing?” Come with me, as we visit this scene on a beach far away. There is someone here keeping the same secret that you and I are keeping. What he doesn’t know is that his secret is about to come out.

Start with warming yourself at the fire. You just jumped into the water and swam about 100 yards to shore to see your leader (John 21 NASB). You have not had any alone time with Him since He was killed; but you have seen Him two other times since He was raised back to life as He promised. You know that He is alive, and you have seen and believed this miracle. But you are also holding on to a secret. As you arrive, there is a fire burning, ready to roast the fish you just caught. How did He know? Friend, He always knows. Your name is Peter, and you are about to have your secret exposed.

What do we know about Peter, as a person like us? He was a partner in a small business, so he hired people and managed finances and had influence in the community (Luke 5 and John 1). He had a mother-in-law (Luke 4:38), so we know he knew about pain – only kidding! You never had to wonder what Peter was thinking (Mark 9 on the Mount of Transfiguration). He may have had some issues with self-image, or was at least strongly influenced by his peer group (see Paul’s admonishment of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14). Peter was proud and emotional, a classic entrepreneurial profile. He never thought of the danger, when Jesus suggested that if the others doubted it was Him walking on the water, then they should call to Him on the waves (Matt 14:28-32). Peter called, got up and actually walked on the water for a few steps. He then realized what he was actually doing was unnatural, and so he welled up with fear. Peter seemed so headstrong at times, but was convinced by evidence to change his thinking (Acts 10). He preached the first revival message (Acts 2).

He wanted to be “the man.” He proudly stated that even though all others would fall away, that he would not flinch during the challenging times (Mark 14:29-31). He seemed like someone who wouldn’t say no. Pride almost convinced him that he was not worth a second opportunity at redemption and restoration. His plan seemed to be to go back to what he had been doing – fishing (John 21). He was convincing enough as a leader that a group of disciple followed. But Jesus had plans for Peter to fulfill. Thus the fireside chat.

What one thing is holding you back from being a devoted follower of Christ? You know of Him, you come to church and sing, and generally accept Him as God, as Savior. You feel really good when you get up and go to church; but nothing seems to change in your life, and there are choices you make which lead you back to habits that you would like to break. You work hard at doing this Christian life, but for some reason it is so much work, and the joy is not always there. It is not as you remember, like the day when you opened your heart to Christ and felt the rush of His love and peace overshadow you.

“Do you love Me more….than….these?” This was the question Jesus asks Peter three times beside the fire. Not do you love Me more than these men love me (how would Peter know?); not more than you love these men (He was not asking Peter to choose Christ over his friends); not more than you love fishing…Peter, do you love Me more than your pride, your efforts at doing this life yourself? Do you love Me more than the guilt and condemnation you feel for what you did, which I told you ahead of time you would do (Mark 14:29-31)? Do you love Me more than the pride that tells you that I was right, and that you would fail, but I died for you anyway, fully and completely? Do you love Me more than your weak excuses for why you would not choose to press in and go deeper with Me?

The problem is that Peter is not Blind Bartimaeus. We find this story in several of the gospel accounts; but Mark’s gospel is reported to be the life of Christ as Peter tells it to Mark. So in Mark 10:46-52, Peter told Mark the name of the blind man, but Matthew does not mention it. Perhaps this man became a devoted follower of Christ. Peter is not Blind Bartimaeus sitting on the curb and screaming for mercy.

Peter is also not the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34; which again is the gospel which we believe draws from the personal knowledge of Peter). Peter is not a woman who spent all of her life savings to find relief from a medical condition; and who has tried everything and is desperate, and so her pride is put aside and she pushes rudely into the throng of people with one last desperate effort to reach to Christ and believe that even touching His garment could give her more hope than she could find, since there is no other hope.

When we have no other hope it is easy to press in and totally rely on Jesus. But when we are on those waves, doing what supernaturally cannot be done, and we forget that the work of forgiveness and redemption is a supernatural act; and when we look around at our old habits and the nay-sayers that tell us that we will never change – we begin to sink. But Jesus grabs our hand, and speaks through the storm, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Once before Peter met Christ, but did not immediately follow Him (compare the John Chapter 1 meeting with Mark Chapter 1 beside the sea). He may have allowed his pride to entertain the idea that this man could be all that Peter had heard and read; but he may not have been ready to give everything up at that time. After all, he had a business, a family, and prestige in the community. Why follow after this person? Peter heard the Savior’s voice, but he held up on fully following. After a while his faith overcame his pride, and Peter became a fan of Christ, part of His posse. At several points along the way, Peter became the one who clear identified who Jesus truly was (Matthew 16:13-20); yet he would also try to tone down Christ’s talk of death and suffering (same passage, Matthew 16, now vs. 21-23). Peter followed along, and showed signs of commitment, sneaking into the garden to keep track of Jesus when He was captured by the soldiers (Matthew 26:69-75).

Peter’s pride got the best of him then – the shallowness of his commitment was exposed. His secret was plain to see. He wept bitterly at this truth (Matthew 26:75b); but he still needed to decide. “Do you love me more….than….these?” Having followed Peter’s life, what would you answer? What will you choose to do when your secret is exposed?

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Joseph J. Bucci

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