Summary: We are significant in Christ because we have been created to be significant.
Several years ago a professor at a New England college, loved by students and alumni, adopted a plan to help discouraged students. Whenever he noticed a discouraged student, he made it a point of giving that student a better mark than what he really deserved and of seeing that others in the class knew of that mark. The professor noted that invariably that the student would perk up at the grade and then earn that grade the next time. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened not just in the classroom, but also in the workplace, in the home, in the neighborhood, and in the church?
Unfortunately it doesn’t and the result is a great deal of discouragement all around us and in us. We struggle with feeling and believing that we are significant and that we matter to someone and there is a reason for our existence.
But we do matter to someone and there is a reason for our existence. One of the most important parts of our identity in Christ is that we are and we can become significant in Him.
This important aspect of significance is illustrated in the life of someone that I believe many people can identity with in this day and age. His life is an open book and when we read it we learn something about ourselves and we also learn about God’s view of us as we observe God, through His son, Jesus Christ, bringing significance to this man’s life.
The man is Peter, one of the first followers of Christ, one of the disciples, called by Jesus to follow Him. We have been given access to at least a part of his life in several New Testament books. There are many points of entry into Peter’s life. But, today we begin at a point of profound and devastating failure because I believe that it is in this chapter of Peter’s life that we can fully understand our significance to God and our significance in God. It is the point at which Peter denies Jesus.
All four of the Gospels record Peter’s denial and the events leading up to it. Three of the four record Jesus’ statement that Peter will deny Him three times before the rooster crows and Peter’s denial of Jesus’ assertion. But, I am going to focus on John’s account in chapter 18, starting with verse 25. I encourage you to follow along.
Jesus has been betrayed and arrested and Peter, who reacted violently to the arrest as we read in verse 10, follows Jesus and the arresting party to the High Priest where at first he was not aloud to enter the courtyard until John (the other disciple spoken of in this passage) said something to the woman guarding the entrance. As Peter walked in, the woman said, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?” “No, I am not,” is the reply.
The account then shifts to the initial questioning of Jesus and then back to Peter who is asked a second time, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” “I am not.”
Then a third questioner, a relative of the one who received Peter’s sword strike, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” Again Peter denied it. And the rooster crowed.
Luke records in chapter 22 and verse 61 that when the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him a short time earlier and Peter left the courtyard, “crying bitterly,” as verse 62 indicates.
What Jesus had said to Peter came true. He denied that he knew Jesus. And now Peter experienced failure head on. Peter loved Jesus. Peter had said, “I’ll follow you to death Lord!” only to back down and, in fear, deny that he was one of Jesus’ followers.
Have you had moments like this? Have you felt the heat of fear when you have been challenged about your commitment to Christ in an environment that was hostile and mocking? Have you had a moment of weakness when you denied your relationship with God and tasted the bitterness of denial through disobedience? We can relate to Peter can’t we? We understand his emotions, his feelings, and we experience the ache in his heart because of his denial that he is one of God’s followers.
When I study these segments of the gospels each year in preparation for Easter I get nosy. I wonder, where did the disciples go after they fled? What did they do? In the four accounts, only John is mentioned at being present at the cross in Jesus’ final hours before His death. How did the other 10, Judas having killed himself, cope with the loss of Christ and their own fears and shame at running away? Where was their source of significance now? It couldn’t have been in their relationship with Jesus. They ran from Him! They denied Him! They betrayed Him! Besides, He was as good as dead!