Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 14
Need for Self-Discovery
What was his greatest need? To begin with, it was self-discovery, followed by loss of self-trust. And those were the very things that happened in the hard school of experience into which Simon Peter was put by his Lord. For the truth is this: that all who are going to be of real service to the Lord must be brought, sooner or later, to the place where they lose all trust in themselves. Before they can do the work for which they have been brought into this world, the work for God and the work of God, they will have to come to the place where they have lost all self-trust. Peter teaches us that lesson, perhaps, above all others, in relation to service.
See this man on the day of Pentecost. Is that service? Is he now a servant of Jesus Christ? See him in the house of Cornelius - another great turning point in the history of Christianity. See him in the Council of Jerusalem: hear what he says and how he is deferred to. "Simon hath said ..." This man emerged as a great servant of Jesus Christ - but only in virtue of having emerged from this deep and terrible experience in which he lost his self-trust.
If you have read this twenty-first chapter of John in a version that brings out the different words that were used by the Lord and by Peter for "love," you may have wondered why it was that Peter baulked at the word that the Lord was using, and refused to use it. When the Lord Jesus said, "Lovest thou Me?" He used the highest word that could be used for "love," but Peter answered with another word of a lower order altogether. Why would he not rise to the word that the Lord was using? I think that he had lost his self-trust; that he was remembering: "If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended" (Matt. 26:33) - and then the denial. Had something in him been touched and weakened and broken, that made him feel, "I dare not declare myself to be on that highest level of love?" I may be wrong, but I seem to discern that. But at length the Lord Himself came down to Peter's level, and took him up on His own ground with the lower word, as if to say: 'All right, if you can only go so far, well, go as far as you can. Commit yourself to that. I will take you up on that; I will go on with you on that.' Whether that interpretation is true or not, there is little doubt that Peter had been touched on his strong point of self-assurance and self-confidence, and was a broken man in that realm. And therefore, becoming the servant that he did become, he says to us: "That is the way of service. That is the first law."
That may sound hard, but it ought to sound comforting. Are you having a hard time? If as you aspire to be of some use to the Lord, if you find yourself being emptied and broken, and taken through a hard school where you feel that you cannot stand up to it all, remember, that is the way of service. If you have any degree of self-confidence, if you think that you can "do it," if you can "do all the talking," if you are the first to take things into your hands, let me say: You will not be of service to the Lord until that is dealt with! No; we have to come to the place where we cannot and we will not, unless compelled by Another and not driven by our own impulses.
Peter's need was of a Master. But, in order to have a Master, a man like that has to be utterly broken. And that happened to Peter. Not only is it recorded that he went out and wept bitterly, after his terrible failure and breakdown and in his self-discovery, but it is recorded that the risen Lord, after sending a message to His disciples, then specified that it should be conveyed to Peter. The heavenly messenger said: "Go, tell His disciples and Peter ..." (Mark 16:7). One thing that impresses you in those resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus is how He knew all that was going on. He knew, for instance, exactly how Thomas had been behaving and talking, even though He Himself had not been visibly present. He could tell them just what had been going on inside of them, and all they had been doing. And so He knew about Peter, too, and what had been happening with him. Somewhere, in his brokenness, his humiliation, his despair, was Peter, necessitating that the Lord should say: 'Go, tell My disciples, and Peter...' Was he not a disciple? Why specify? Surely the reason is obvious. The man needs some special help: he is broken, he is shattered; a special message must to to him - he must be mentioned by name. 'Say to Peter... The Lord has not only sent a general message, but He has sent it to you - He has mentioned you by name.'
Just think how you would feel if you were in his position and condition. 'The Lord - the Lord! The last time I saw the Lord was when He looked at me. It was that look that broke me, that shattered me, as I was denying Him. That look I shall never forget. He looked at me.' The word that is used there about the Lord 'looking upon' Peter (Luke 22:61) is a rather strong word. There are different words for "look," but this word means 'to look upon attentively or fixedly.' His eyes rested upon him, held him, went right through him. That was the last time Peter had seen the Lord, and that look had done its work. Those eyes knew him, and now Peter had come to know himself as the Lord knew him. It is a terrible thing when that happens. And to think that the Lord should say, "...and Peter!" 'Could He ever think of me again? Could He ever have anything to do with me again? Do I still stand with Him in the company of His disciples?'
The Mastery of Christ
Now the point is this: that this is the making of a servant - this is the training of a servant of Jesus Christ. This came; and, having come, it led to two things. Firstly, it led to the mastery of Christ. The real mastery of Christ, though we may call Him Master and Lord, is not established until our own mastery of ourselves has been shattered and broken. How often did Peter, who called Jesus 'Master' and 'Lord,' seek to dictate to Him, to tell Him - the Lord - what He ought to do and what He ought not to do - what He might do and what He was not allowed to do! Yes, we can call Him 'Lord,' and we can call Him 'Master.' But the way of real service is that He become Master in reality, and that necessitates our brokenness.
Look at Peter on the day of Pentecost, and afterward, and look right on to his letters. Listen to him speaking; read what he writes. Jesus is Master of this man, now. That is the first thing that came out of this shattering. It is a law of usefulness and service to the Lord - make no mistake about it. If you aspire to service, if you are thinking in terms of Christian work, if you are desirous of being of real value to the Lord - put it how you will - you can take it that the way is here 'writ large for all to see.' This man Peter stands out as a servant of Jesus Christ of no mean order, and the way by which he became that was the way of Jesus Christ becoming his absolute Master. He stands for the great principle of submission to Christ, without which there can be no usefulness to Him. Our value to the Lord really begins - not - when He becomes our Saviour, but when He becomes our Lord. Those two things can happen at the same time, but with many they stand far apart.
(continued with # 15 - An Overwhelming Appreciation of Grace