Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Denying Humility  

From today's Gospel reading:

"My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you. Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times." John 13:33,36-38
When I read this today, I was struck with the amount of irony that is found in the exchange that our Lord has with Simon Peter. Jesus, of course, knows that Simon Peter will deny him three times in the next several hours. He also knows that one day Peter will follow Jesus where He is about to go when Peter, too, will be crucified. However, long before that time, Peter will commit the ultimate sin of denying Christ.

Peter, at some level, actually knows where Jesus is going because after asking Jesus where he is going, he adds that he is ready to lay down his life for Jesus. In his heart, he knows what Jesus is asking him to do because he vaguely understands what Jesus is about to do. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus has spoken and lived a message of giving Himself for others. In particular, Peter, knows that Jesus has given Himself to Peter. He also recalls that Jesus has spoken about laying down His life. Although Peter may have only understood this in some very loose way, he knows that it is important idea, and he wants to do what his master teaches.

How often have I found myself exactly where I see Peter in today's Gospel! I have some vague understanding of what God wants me to do, but I am in no way ready to accomplish the task. Instead of doing His will, I end up doing the exact opposite.

The problem for Peter and for me seems to be a lack of humility. When our Lord states that Peter cannot follow Him now, but that he will follow Him later, that should have been the final word for Peter. Jesus knows us perfectly and when He says something is true about us, it is true. There is no point in trying to convince Him otherwise. Peter does not want to believe he is limited in his devotion to Christ. He fancies that he is devoted enough to Christ that he is ready to die for Christ. The reality is that Peter cannot even speak up for Jesus, much less be ready to suffer for Him.

Humility, on the other hand, helps us to simply accept our limits and to recognize that God knows them much better than we do. Jesus knew that for Peter everything was about to be turned upside-down. Instead of a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus was about to be arrested by the religious authorities. All the disciples were to abandon Jesus. Suddenly, Peter would find himself looking in on his master, the prisoner. This situation was too much for Peter. Jesus knew it, but Peter did not. And instead of humbly accepting Christ's words, he probably thought he would show Jesus otherwise. When the moment came to stand up for Jesus, his lack of humility had not prepared him, and he failed miserably.

The key, as I have heard it said, to mental health is acceptance. It also seems to be the key to the spiritual life. In order to grow in Christ, I need to accept who I am right now. The fact is that I, like Peter in today's Gospel, am more ready to deny Christ than I am to stand up for Him. Jesus knows it, but I do not. The peace in my heart and the opportunity to serve Christ begins with accepting who I really am, not who I would like to be. If I accept who I really am, I am in a position to be used by God because I have not put a barrier of a false picture of myself between the Lord and me. As long as I keep that barrier, I will only add to my struggles. Peter learned the hard way, but he apparently remembered the lesson because, as Jesus stated, he eventually did follow Him where he was going.

Posted by David at 7:41 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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