Flashback

Easter Saturday

Flashback

The Morning After The Night Before

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.’

Isaiah 55:8

Found in  John 18:15, Mark 14:27-31 and Luke 22:54-62

‘“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd,

    and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice  you yourself will disown me three times.”

But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.” Mark 14:27-31

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The coals that night, they throbbed, glowing orange and red.  Sparks danced splintering the dark. It drew him closer, coaxed by the warmth, pushed by the chilled night air and the rising dark. 

“It was cold, and the servants and officials stood round a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.” John 18:18

But his glazed eyes didn’t see the coals at all, his hands, not his mind felt their throbbing warmth. He was elsewhere in another place; head spinning, heart pounding, mind racing. He was elsewhere in another place.

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It was all tumbling down, falling down, burning down, this Kingdom, this hope, this man. Darkness was winning. How was darkness winning? It wasn’t supposed to be this way. NO, NO, NO, he screamed silently. This can’t be the plan!

Voices murmured, fingers pointed. Startling him from his daze.

“A servant-girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’ Luke 22:56

The night, black with thickening dark, spun and writhed and whirled around him. ‘This man was with him’ the words echoed in the distance… he had thought he was with Him. But was he? He didn’t know any more, anything. Most of all Him.

But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.” Luke 22:57

“I don’t know Him” The speed with which these words left his mouth startled, stabbed. His mind wheeled in circles wildly and the courtyard reeled as though the earth had fallen off its axis. This can’t be the plan, I don’t know this plan, I don’t want it. I don’t know this, this plan, this path, this man… 

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Glinting eyes measured his face, suspicious, searching. The silence screamed, throbbing in his ears. 

“A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

One of them… one of the twelve. One of the three. His closest friend.

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.” Luke 22:58

His raspy voice echoed in the darkness, clanging, hanging on the cold night air. I am not. I am not.  I am not on the path I thought I was. He’s not on it with me. 

He shivered. Why is it so dark? It’s so hard to see in the dark. 

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“About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’” Luke 22: 59

His heart raced. What did he say? ‘Certainly this fellow was with him’… he had been certain. That he was with Him. That He was with him. But now all certainty was gone. He was sinking. Again. He gasped like a drowning man, sucking in air, the night’s chill filling his lungs, filling his heart…

“Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’” Luke 22:60

I don’t know what you’re talking about’ he heard his voice splutter in the distant dark… I don’t know Him, I don’t know what you’re talking about! This can’t be the plan, I don’t know this plan, I don’t want it. I don’t know this, this plan, this path, this man…

“Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed.” Luke 22:60

A rooster crowed, distant in the bitter night air, and then another. How can a sound stab so deep? 

And realisation lifted the veil from his heart. 

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:61

And the coals, they smelled like a Kingdom burning down.

 “And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:60-62

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And it is true, Peter did not, in that moment know Him. 

In saying he never knew Him, Peter revealed the sad truth, that he never did fully know Him. Peter knew who he wanted Him to be. But he didn’t yet know Him. This defenceless armour-less King. Striding towards the battle, refusing to conform to the worldly ambitions of human hearts, the fantasies of grandeur Peter’s machinations had projected on Him. Peter had never fully known Him.

It would only be after it was all said and done, after the night had melted away and the radiance of a new day’s sun shone clear and warm upon his back once more, only then would he finally begin to know Him, know himself, on the other side of the darkest moment of his life.

His words, clanging from his clang-empty heart, they had failed him. His heart, flawed, fearful, flailing about in the dark, had failed him. Failed Him; Him who had once called him ‘Rock’. Where was his boulder-like strength now?

It was not Peter’s strength of character that would eventually make him who he was, but the strength of his leaf-like fall to the forest floor, the thud as he fell like a rock to the earth. Disillusioned, stripped of every human assumption, strength, pride and aspiration. Falling from his head in the clouds and his illusions of grandeur; Illusions of a Kingdom that could come through anything but a cross.

He had assumed he’d known Him. But he actually only knew who he wanted Him to be, a worldly Messiah bringing earthly victory; Not this, this humiliating death on a cross.

A rooster always crows when we bend His message into our own, when we paint Him into an image of our own desires.

He wasn’t who I thought he was. He was different. He was more.

I wasn’t who I thought I was. I was different, I was less. I was small, empty and curled up in a foetal ball in the dark. 

The coal that night smelled like a Kingdom burning down.

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Sometimes the only way to discover who God really is, is a long dark fall to a forest floor. The aching thud of assumptions shattering, of a life in pieces, of hopes dashed. Hopes woven around even an idea of Christ must break in the face of who Christ really is. He is not who we have thought He was, we have not known Him. He is always more. Less of our illusions, and more than we ever dreamed possible.

Because it’s only as we loose our assumptions that we discover that we even have them. Until we loose our illusions about who we think God is, we will never really know who He truly is.  He is always more.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.’

Isaiah 55:8

He did not come for our success, to make our lives easy or our hearts happy. He didn’t come to win our arguments or prove our points. It was not worldly success He came for, ours or His. It was grace. He was always on a road towards the cross. That’s who this God is. We may not like it, we may prefer the sound of the roaring Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but when we turn your head we will always see the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:5-6). 

A rooster always crows when we bend His message into our own, when we paint Him into an image of our own desires, an extension of our ego.

He came to save us from ourselves, to find us in the darkness of our illusions and bring us out through necessary disillusionment into the light of His grace and truth.

And we stand waiting now, waiting for the sun to rise warm upon our skin, skin still smelling from the smoke and ash of burned ambitions and incinerated pride, waiting for a glimpse of Him as He is, not as we want Him to be, not filtered through the smokescreen of our religious assumptions, but more, so much more. The risen King of His Kingdom, not ours.

And it was the smell of a kingdom burning down that night.

Just not His. 

The kingdom of Darkness was being set alight by the one true Light of the world, and tomorrow that Light will dawn on a brand new day.

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Journey Further

When have you felt disillusioned by God?

What assumptions about Him do you need to let go of?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.’

Isaiah 55:8

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References Notes and Credits

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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