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The greatest compliment: you’ve changed

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22: 31-34
 

Have you ever given a speech to thousands and had a five minute standing ovation? Lady Margaret Thatcher, at the Conservative Party Conference on 10 October 1980 received that accolade for the speech which has come to be known as “This lady’s not for turning speech.”

“Not for turning?” Why not? As you observed this present world do you wish that some folk would turn, would change their minds? How about a change of mind by President Assad of Syria? Most of us would welcome this given that we would be unaffected and others would be greatly blessed.

But how about a change of governmental mind about the present calculated annihilation of those in uterus? Some in Jersey would welcome that but others would disagree because they would or might be disadvantaged by it.

Our support for any “turning” depends on whether the turn is advantageous to us or detrimental to us. But another factor is also very important. “How can I possibly turn when I have never, ever been wrong – and wasn’t yesterday – and will be ashamed if I turn?”
 
 
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‘The man is as the mind is.’ (Matthew Henry, Bible commentator, 1662-1714)

Take a look at the words in bold above, spoken in AD 33 and recorded by Luke, a first century doctor, in his biography of Jesus Christ published around AD 55. Peter, Jesus’ most vociferous disciple, was quite clear. He was not mistaken. He would fight to ensure Jesus stayed alive. Or would he?

But the biographer continued Peter’s story – for us to read. Then they seized Jesus and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”

And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

At that stage in his life, the big issue for Peter was what he wept bitterly about - the fact that he couldn’t change, he couldn’t own up to being a Jesus follower. He had failed. He wanted to turn and be faithful to the Jesus he loved. But the disadvantage to himself was far too great. He couldn’t turn. A turn would mean his own likely death.

If you had some advice for him – at that particular stage – what would you have suggested? Would your suggestion – whatever it is – have changed him?
 
 
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'Man’s basic need is not a grasp of logic but a gift of life.’ (John Blanchard)

But Dr Luke, Jesus’ biographer, continued Peter’s story. Jesus was duly executed on a cross as a common criminal. Three days later, the first Easter Sunday, the women who had been with them went to Jesus’ tomb where two men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Returning from the tomb they told these things to all the rest but they did not believe them.

But Dr Luke records this about Peter. What do you make of what he wrote? He used seven verbs to record Peter's turning. Peter rose [same Greek word as described Jesus’ resurrection] and ran [rushed straight to] to the tomb; stooping [bending down – humbling himself] and looking in [closely examining it all], he saw [the Greek verb means to perceive and understand] the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home [the Greek word means “came to himself”] marveling [awestruck and worshipping] at what had happened.

Peter, you’ve changed. You’ve turned.        Sure enough, he had.

 
Richard Syvret

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