God’s ways, in this matter of the cross, were not only higher but infinitely better beyond reckoning.
We see the new, transformed Peter on the day of Pentecost, when Peter is among the other disciples in the upper room, as they are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin speaking with other tongues.
Peter stands up physically and spiritually, and steps into the destiny of his life, as he boldly addresses the people and proclaims the gospel message that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Weeks later, before the Sanhedrin, after the crippled man is miraculously healed at the gate of the temple, Peter speaks with such clarity, power, and conviction to the rich and powerful men assembled there, the very people he used to be in terror of, that even these members of the Sanhedrin were impressed with the courage and boldness of Peter and John.
In the beautiful and instructive example of this life-changing transformation in Peter, we see the contrast between our ways and God’s ways. In his own strength, Peter cannot marshal enough courage during the intimidating circumstances of the midnight trial of Jesus, to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus to even an informal group of common people gathered around a small fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas.
Peter is experiencing what Christians today popularly call an “Ishmael”…the ill-fated doom of all self-generated plans…that go forward without the advance council or participation of God.
This is better articulated in another common saying: “Whatever man does without God will fail miserably, or succeed even more miserably.”
But then watch what God does next in this divinely salvaged story of Peter’s fall and recovery.
After the events of the resurrection of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost, Peter is now fully restored and correctly following the leading of the Holy Spirit as he was trained. As Peter and John are walking into the temple early in the morning to pray for the strength and inspiration to fulfill their new responsibilities as leaders of the new Christian church, they perceive through the Spirit that God intends to heal the crippled man asking for alms.
Through a cascade of quickly unfolding events, this time engineered by Jesus Christ, Peter shortly finds himself not being challenged by a small group of common people standing around a fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas, but instead ably defending himself before the entire assembled body of the all-powerful, ruling Sanhedrin council.
In this second challenge arranged and empowered exclusively by the Holy Spirit, and not by his earlier inadequate self-effort in the courtyard, Peter successfully comes through this time with incredible Holy Spirit boldness in acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah.
Another important lesson can be learned from this inspired biblical episode in the life of Peter. When we are operating according to our own plans and thinking, the glory of God is nowhere in sight.
Peter completely falls on his face in the courtyard of Caiaphas, because his plan to protect Jesus from physical harm is clearly off-track from God’s eternal plan of salvation for mankind. But when we are operating within the will of God, God glorifies Himself in and through us.
When questioned by the Sanhedrin council about the miraculous healing of the crippled man, Peter immediately assigns the credit toward Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit glory of God on Peter and John boldly uplifts Jesus as the promised Messiah before these worldly powerful men.
God glorifies Himself in and through these two disciples, to the potential benefit of everyone present.
The unselfish love and pure righteousness of the glory of God transforms the miraculously healed man, emboldens Peter and John, further unfolds the truth about the identity of Jesus the Son of God hopefully to some open-minded members of the Sanhedrin, and blesses and instructs countless millions of people down through the ensuing centuries, reading this inspired account of the defense of the Christian faith at the dawning of the first century church.
The contrast between this God-composed and orchestrated event, and the earlier failed testimony of Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas, is staggering.