Meditations on Luke: The Depth of Darkness

Luke 22:54-62

“Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him.” —Luke 22:61

One the greatest measures of human creativity is our ability to rationalize almost anything. No matter how destructive our actions, no matter how foolish our choices, no matter how selfish our behaviors, no matter how dark our impulses, we can always come up with a good excuse or a reasonable explanation for them. Unfaithful spouses blame infidelity on the fact that their partners supposedly ignored their needs. The pastor caught embezzling blames it on the fact that his church never paid him a fair salary. The cheating student blames it on the fact that “everybody is doing it.” We always seem to have a response at the ready.

If that effort fails, then our next line of defense is to find someone else to blame. When God approached Adam to inquire if he had eaten the forbidden fruit, he said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Translation: It wasn’t my fault! When God then turned to Eve to ask for her version of events, she responded by saying, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Translation: It wasn’t my fault! (By the way, those who want to argue that this episode shows women to be more spiritually susceptible overlook the fact that the man was the first one to pass the buck in this story.)

Sometimes, however, we are forced to stare our own failure directly in the face. We can hide, avoid, and defer for a while, but sooner or later the truth catches up with us. A rooster crowed in the distance, and all of a sudden the reality of Peter’s denial came rushing in on him. This was the one thing he swore he would never do, yet there was no escaping the fact that he had done it. In that moment, according to verse 61, the Lord’s gaze peered right through him and he exposed him for all his treachery. In that moment, all excuses failed him, all rationalizations disappeared, and all efforts to pass the blame came up short.

Perhaps one of the surest signs of grace in our lives is the ability to stand still in that moment and allow truth to have its way with us—to allow our eyes to be opened to see ourselves as we truly are. Because until we see ourselves as we truly are, we can never really see Christ as he truly is. As long as we continue to view ourselves as basically decent people who just happen to stumble every so often, then we will never grasp the depths of the grace of the One who died for us. But when we come to grips with the depth of darkness that resides in each of us, the fullness of Christ’s mercy starts to come into view.

The good news for Peter is that he was willing to allow this grace to take hold of his life. Standing there in the darkness and chill of the outer courtyard, with the smoke from the charcoal fire burning his eyes and the haunting sound of the rooster’s crow ringing in his ears, Peter saw truth—the truth that he was a deplorable sinner and that Christ was a gracious Savior. That moment changed his life and the life of the church forever.

May it be the same with us.

Holy God, help me today to see myself as I really am and to see you as you truly are. Through Christ, Amen.

This post originally appeared in Meditations on Luke: Daily Devotions from the Gentile Physician by Chris Cadenhead.

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