We need to make ourselves vulnerable. We need to admit that we are weak and fully dependent upon God. We need the prayers and intercession of others. We need restoring for our souls.
“Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].” James 5:16 (AMP)
Traditionally Holy Week has been a time of prayer, contemplation and reflection. As we reflect upon Jesus’ journey from the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday to His Passion on Good Friday, we are called to examine ourselves as well.
The apostle Peter (who was anything but a wallflower) thought that he could hang tough with Jesus when the time came, but his reaction was very different when he was thrown into the time of trial.
“Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.” Matthew 26:33-35 (NRSV)
Who could blame the apostle Peter for acting as any scared human being would? Sometimes we speak with crocodile mouths, only to discover we have canary patoots. We can be cowards. Sometimes the only way we can muddle through trials is by the power of the Holy Spirit, and even then we struggle. We only pray to have as willing a heart as Peter. Our intentions are good, though our flesh is weak.
If we were to enumerate our faults, sins, false moves, bad judgment, poor decisions, and so on, one by one, it would take us years. We are inherently flawed. It is part of the human condition.
It’s important for us to see the apostles and other heavy hitter characters in the Bible for who they are- simple, human people who GOD used for big purposes. Apart from meeting up with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the apostle Peter would simply have been an obscure fisherman like so many other fishermen of his day, and his name would be lost to history forever.
That’s why I have a little bit of cognitive dissonance with putting “saints” on a pedestal. We should examine the lives of the people who are part of the Biblical narrative. We should thank God for their record and their witness, but to see the players in the Biblical story as serene figures on stained glass windows misses the point. They were flesh and blood human beings. They made mistakes.
The aesthetic of stained glass windows is lovely, but we miss the point if this is the only way we see the “saints.”
The calling to the Christian life is a bold calling. It is a calling that requires us to be open and vulnerable if we are to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us- not only through our own prayers but through the intercessory prayers of others.
The Christian community is important- it is the Church Militant here on earth. Although the military reference is rather un-PC, we are called to fight, not with weapons but with healing actions and gentle words. We are the ground forces here on earth who live out the Kingdom of God here and now.
We should see the apostle Peter as he was- a tough, barely educated, coarse, fisherman who worked with his hands. It’s easy for us to relate to a guy like that. He wasn’t someone with pretty clothes and a halo on a window when he was living and acting down here on earth. He did some things right. He made some pretty drastic mistakes. He was human. What made him and his witness special and gave him purpose was God working in and through him.
This Holy Week we pray for our friends and fellow Christians that we would look to Jesus for our courage- because we don’t have any reason to be courageous apart from Him. We pray the Holy Spirit would open our hearts and make us vulnerable- not so anyone can take advantage of us- (we have all been there and done that too many times)- but so Jesus can give us a new heart and new strength, that He would transform us and invite us into His story.
“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:36 (NRSV)