I’ve thought a lot about grace the last few days since my 79-year-old mother has become a believer. What I’ve realized is that I sometimes take grace for granted even though I know better. With that realization in mind, I remembered this selection I wrote a number of years ago:
“I don’t even know Him,” the fisherman-turned-disciple-turned-liar said. In fact, he said it three times to various people, and with increasing levels of ferocity. In no way was he going to put himself in the same danger Jesus now found Himself in. “I swear I’m not His follower” would surely suffice to protect the disciple’s neck. Indeed, it did – at least for a while.
But then Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Eyes of rebellion connected with eyes of love while the crowing of a rooster echoed in the background. The confident, rugged fisherman had done what he had said he’d never do just hours before. “I’ll go to prison, and I’ll die for you,” he had said.
But not now. Not yet, at least.
For now, he wouldn’t even admit to being one of Jesus’ followers.
Recognizing just how feeble his commitment was – and how miserably he had failed the one whose eyes now caught his – all Peter could do was weep miserably. I may be wrong, but I suspect he didn’t sleep well that night, either. Certainly not on the night that the whispers echoed throughout Jerusalem, “They’ve killed the man called Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Fast forward, then, to a prison cell likely somewhere in the Temple complex in that city, with Roman soldiers guarding it. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, used to be imprisoned there. But not anymore.
He’s dead. Killed with the sword at the violent hand of the king.
Peter was still there, however, and he was the next in line. The same fate James met was around the corner for the fisherman – the same fisherman who couldn’t even verbalize his commitment to Jesus years before. I doubt he ever fully forgot the words, “I don’t even know him.” They might have even echoed in his head on sleepless nights.
This night in a prison cell, though, he was sleeping. Chained to two Roman soldiers, still he was sleeping. Sleeping so soundly, in fact, that an angel had to kick him in the side to wake him up. Death surely was at the door, and Peter slept. Like a baby, apparently.
The same disciple who had wept like a baby after his denial now slept like a baby with his neck in the proverbial noose. He wouldn’t even stand for Jesus back then; now, he was peacefully ready to die for him.
Something had changed. Something had happened.
Grace had happened.
Not only had Jesus kept His eyes on the fisherman, but He also welcomed him back into the band of disciples upon Peter’s brokenness. The same Jesus that Peter had denied would not deny Peter. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
That’s grace. And, as a fallen man who too often denies Jesus by my words and my actions, I am deeply, deeply grateful for that grace extended to me. And, now, to my mom.