Imagine the thoughts of the Apostle Peter on Easter morning, after the events of the previous three days. What else could have been on his mind, but Jesus? It is hard to sleep when God calls upon you to do that which is uncomfortable.
The “Gethsemane Experiences” of Christ and of Peter reveal how separate were their commitments to God. Jesus grew closer to God; Peter drifted away. Both were to be pioneers. Jesus’ mission was to conquer death. Peter’s destiny was to build His church. When God calls upon us to further new ideas, we too are afraid and in turmoil. Within our own Gethsemanes, we engage in a spiritual battle of loneliness, truth-finding, and submission, before finding strength.
During Easter, we find accounts of Jesus and of Peter in stark contrast. In Luke (22:54-62), we witness Peter’s commitment to Jesus drain away. Peter was badly shaken, upon hearing from Jesus, “Peter, before the cock crows this day you will deny me three times” (Luke 22:34).
Peter’s behavior grew transparent. In Luke (22:54), we read, “Peter followed at a distance,” as they led Christ into the courtyard of the high priest. After the arrestors lit a fire, “Peter sat among them.” Peter’s loyalty was divided. He was a rebel without a cause, torn between his devotion to Jesus and to the apathetic and uncommitted masses.
In this setting, a “Servant girl stares at him and accuses him of being one of those with Jesus.” To remain unknown, Peter denies affiliation with Jesus, saying, “Woman I do not know him.” Peter’s words reveal a deluded faith, an effort made among men and women holding no threat.
Later, a man challenged Peter, saying, “You also are of them.” Again, Peter denies association, saying, “Man I am not!” Finally, another man said, “Surely this fellow was also with Him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” As Peter spoke, the rooster crowed, proving Christ’s prediction, that Peter would thrice deny knowing Him.
We are saddened to see Peter’s commitment falter, his devotion disappear, his fellowship crumble, his faith fail, and his fervor convert to denial. We ask, then, “What does it take to wake up with Jesus?”
To awaken with Jesus, we must stay close to Him in thought and action, and avoid the influence of those with divided loyalty to Christ. We can recharge our faith by staying in touch with well-grounded disciples whose words and actions are Christ-like, and by preventing our passion for Christ from becoming religious or denominational fervor.
During Peter’s sleepless nights, Christ conveyed a message able to cheer Peter’s heart. According to Mark (16:7), when the women reached the tomb, an angel said to them, “Go tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter must have been tormented by his disloyalty. Suddenly, from the grave arose tidings with a special message for Peter, a wake-up call!
How like Jesus, to awaken us with Good News, without mention of Peter’s wrongs, but mindful of the remorse that Peter (or we) may be enduring. Jesus was far more eager to comfort the penitent sinner than to punish the sin. Jesus’ precious gift is His trust in us, even as we stumble in defeat.
We are comforted, and sleep better, knowing that, in the morning, whether in life or in death, we will “Wake Up with Jesus.”
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.