Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
But Peter answered and said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times." Peter said to Him, "Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You." (Matt. 26:33-35)
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man." And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away." Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man! And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. Now when morning had come... (Matt. 26:69-27:1)
Oh Peter, how familiar is your condition: filled with the zeal of an ideal that will not stand in the darkness. The cock crows signaling our denial of what we declared to hold dear. But he also signals the coming of a new day. In the light of this new day there is no occasion of stumbling.
"I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness," said Jesus (John 12:46) Lets look more closely at two things concerning Jesus' statement.
First, you can't believe in something you have not experienced. Yes, people make all sorts of statements about what they believe concerning things they have not experienced. But that is not the sense in which Jesus is making this statement. When you have experienced the reliability of a particular automobile, you don't give a second thought when the need arises to drive 60 miles for repairs for your tractor. You jump into your car, never once thinking: "Should I walk or maybe take a horse in the trailer just in case..."
Second, the Greek word we translate as "darkness" has no other implication than obscurity. The Hebrew word used by Isaiah to describe the work of the Messiah to bring people out of darkness has implications of death, wickedness, and misery. So the effect of Jesus' coming as light into the world and our believing in and walking in that light is that we are come out of death, out of misery, and out of wickedness.
The Psalmist wrote:
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. (Psalms 107:10-14, KJV)
Now, consider these passages from Isaiah:
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:6-7, KJV)
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.(Isaiah 50:10-11 KJV)
So the coming of Jesus as light into the world is a change of basis, a new foundation upon which to base our life. The old foundation of zealously held ideals has proven insufficient to sustain us in the darkness. Throughout our history, we have declared the dawning of new days that will herald the triumph of man's power. Though we have kindled fires and walked in the light of our ideals, we have discovered again and again that they do not provide life, lasting comfort, or righteousness. The light of our own making will not sustain us.
Today, because of our scientific and technological achievements, we see ourselves at the dawning of a great, new day. We have high and noble ideals that promise to unify mankind into one "great city." But with the approaching dawn comes the crowing of the rooster.
That irritatingly persistent rooster crows, announcing the insufficiency of our own efforts and calls us to come to the morning. We are not to live by ideals, even noble ones. Man shall live by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," said Moses (Deut. 8:3). Peter did not remain a bitter weeper in the darkness, but turned to the dawning of the day and experienced the day star to arise in his heart. Thus he could tell the Jews, "There is no other authority, by which man can be saved, than the authority of this speaker-of-the-word-of-God that God has raised up." (See Deut. 18:15-18 and Acts 3:1-4:12)
"Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light?" asked Isaiah. Jesus answers, "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." In this light is life, comfort, and the power to live righteously in the eyes of God.
There are two paths open to us: kill the rooster or come into the light of Jesus' day. The moral of the story about Peter is that repentance is more efficacious for the soul than chicken soup.
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