Mark ended his gospel message with hope but there was one disciple who still was lingering and wondering; Peter. Where is he emotionally, spiritually, physically at this time as he considers the possibilities of what may lie ahead? He recoiled at the memory of his courtyard experience where he had denied Jesus three times just as prophesied and had left weeping bitterly. From that point he returned to the only safe haven he knew; with his beloved friends, the disciples who had followed Jesus. John tells us that they were hidden behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Perhaps they were wondering if they too would be crucified if others found them knowing that their very accents betrayed them. As they sat and mourned the loss of the one they had followed for three years their thoughts did not return to the words of Jesus: “when I am raised, I will meet you in Galilee” but rather their thoughts replayed and rehearsed the past few days and the questions of why, when, how and more. Peter of all would be wondering if ever he could forgive himself and could or would God forgive him? We too have times when we fall and wonder and at these times where we can turn. It is then that we have this promise from Psalm 37:
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
Did Peter recall these words? We know that John tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection Peter was fully restored…but we are not there yet. Peter yet has to walk the road of misery, mourning, wondering and questioning. But, later he will write what truly happened in his personal letter to those who are suffering. He knows the path and he knows how to encourage. Listen to his words and be encouraged if you too have like Peter experienced a time of falling away: “His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Today, if you are walking with Peter through the agony of dismay, discouragement, despondency for having fallen in some way; take heart, when you repent there is hope. Where there is hope there is joy. Where there is joy there is peace and God’s protection. It is then that the rest of Psalm 37 rings forth with words of comfort and peace: Trust in the Lord, Delight yourself in the Lord, Commit your way to the Lord; Rest in the Lord. This is our journey back to God.
Today would have been the anniversary of my in-law’s marriage. They lived through their 73rd wedding anniversary, she dying on that day and my father in law 18 days later. They were a beautiful picture of true wedded bliss, literally bound to one another “until death do us part”. On the other side was my own mother who buried two husbands and was widowed for several years after. What does all of this have to do with today? In Romans 7, Paul is using the analogy of marriage to show that just as my mother in law was bound to her first husband for 73 yrs; she was never was “unbound”. It was death that unbound my in-laws, if even for a short period of time. My own mother was married for 35 yrs upon which my father died. She then was, unlike my in- laws, free to marry another and several years later she did. It was death that ended my own parent’s marriage relationship. It was death that ended my in-law’s marriage. Death is the only “D” word allowed!
Paul reminds us that once someone is crucified with Christ, who was raised from the dead, so are we also “raised to newness of life” and no longer bound to the Law. Jesus’ death and our acceptance of that sacrifice for our sin rescinded our binding to the Law.
Therefore, once freed from the rules and regulations from the Law, what is the believer’s responsibility? It is to see the Law as God’s standard of righteousness, to see how it reveals man’s sin, and to see it as a guide for life. One’s position becomes one’s practice so to speak. We are now to live a life of holiness that we may honor and glorify Him who gave so much. In the past we were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to righteousness. But, as Paul says, it will be a struggle between the flesh and our new spirit in Christ until we take that last breath. We struggle between what we want to do and what we should do. It is at times like this that we can only come to Christ for cleansing. IJohn 1:9 “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” Thus Paul ends this chapter by saying: Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” And that should be our ending as well.