“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” (Jer. 17:7)
From The Second Half of the Cross
In the beautiful and instructive example of this life-changing transformation in Peter, we see the contrast between our ways and God’s ways. In his own strength, Peter cannot marshal enough courage during the intimidating circumstances of Jesus’ midnight trial, to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus to even an informal group of common people gathered around a small fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas. Peter is experiencing what Christians today popularly call an “Ishmael”…the ill-fated doom of all self-generated plans that proceed without the advance council or participation of God. This is better articulated in another common saying: “Whatever man does without God will fail miserably, or succeed even more miserably.”
But then watch what God does next in this divinely salvaged story of Peter’s fall and recovery. After the events of the resurrection of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost, Peter is now fully restored and correctly following the leading of the Holy Spirit as he was trained. As Peter and John are walking into the temple early in the morning to pray for the strength and inspiration to fulfill their new responsibilities as leaders of the new Christian church, they perceive through the Spirit that God intends to heal the crippled man asking for alms. Through a cascade of quickly unfolding events, this time engineered by Jesus Christ, Peter shortly finds himself not being challenged by a small group of common people standing around a fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas, but instead ably defending himself before the entire assembled body of the all-powerful, ruling Sanhedrin council. In this second challenge arranged and empowered exclusively by the Holy Spirit, and not by his earlier inadequate self-effort in the courtyard, Peter successfully comes through this time with incredible Holy Spirit boldness in acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah.
Another important lesson can be learned from this inspired biblical episode in the life of Peter. When we are operating according to our own plans and thinking, the glory of God is nowhere in sight. Peter completely falls on his face in the courtyard of Caiaphas, because his plan to protect Jesus from physical harm is clearly off-track from God’s eternal plan of salvation for mankind. But when we are operating within the will of God, God glorifies Himself in and through us.
When questioned by the Sanhedrin council about the miraculous healing of the crippled man, Peter immediately assigns the credit toward Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit glory of God on Peter and John boldly uplifts Jesus as the promised Messiah before these worldly powerful men. God glorifies Himself in and through these two disciples, to the potential benefit of everyone present. The unselfish love and pure righteousness of the glory of God transforms the miraculously healed man, emboldens Peter and John, further unfolds the truth about the identity of Jesus the Son of God hopefully to some open-minded members of the Sanhedrin, and blesses and instructs countless millions of people down through the ensuing centuries, reading this inspired account of the defense of the Christian faith at the dawning of the first century church. The contrast between this God-composed and orchestrated event, and the earlier failed testimony of Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas, is staggering.
In our fallen condition of thinking, we cannot imagine that God would actually be way ahead of us regarding the ultimate outcomes we think are important in life. After all, we think, how could “God” understand us? Venturing out into a walk of faith, it is difficult for us to believe that at the end of the road, and at critical milestone junctures along the way, that an eternally ancient God could have an insider’s up-to-date viewpoint and actually come through with the unexpectedly brilliant, imaginative right answers.
For example, do we really believe that in a life lived with God, that the “good guy does not actually finish last?” Do we really believe that God-inspired faith, compassion, mercy, and kindness win-out in the end over self-assertive competitiveness and aggressive self-seeking to “get ahead” in this world? We must be honest with ourselves. God is not fooled. He knows our thoughts. It would come as a surprise and a shock to most of us to discover that the God of the Bible is infinitely more savvy and “with-it” than we think, regarding the innermost desires and longings of our hearts. It simply does not register with most of us that someone other than ourselves, especially a holy and perfect God, would actually know more about life, love, and true character, as they relate to our individual lives specifically, and on a higher level that is way above what we can imagine.
But this is exactly what Peter discovered when he first saw and spoke with the risen Jesus on Resurrection Day. By all outward appearances, the Pharisees and scribes had their way with Jesus. The Roman authorities crucified Him. Peter was right about the bad consequences of Jesus falling into the wrong hands. But when Peter saw the gloriously restored body of Jesus, he grasped the concept of the blood atonement for sin engrained in the Jewish religion given by God to the Israelites going back to the beginning of the Old Testament. Peter realized in a bright flash of spiritual understanding that God all along knew better than Peter could possibly have imagined. It came as an enormous, life-altering relief for Peter to discover that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit had it all figured out, from eternity past, regarding the cross and the resurrection, and that Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard had no bearing whatsoever on the ultimate outcome. In the new world of reality where Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, Peter no longer had to be afraid of anything or anyone, even the heretofore intimidating members of the Sanhedrin.