Monday, March 9, 2009

He is Precious

Last week my wife and I had the pleasure once more of taking in an opera. As operas go except for only a few, they are tragic love affairs. Madam Butterfly, the opera we saw, is no exception it is a tragic love affair. A 15-year-old Japanese geisha girl is betrothed to an American Naval officer while stationed in Japan. She innocently accepts this American Consulate arranged marriage as an honorable union. A friend warns the naval officer “be careful she trusts you,” two times he is warned, “be careful she trusts you.”

Well, the naval officer ships off back home to the USA leaving his betrothed promising to return. For four years, this young woman now age 19 with a son waits for the return of her husband. She checks the harbor for American ships, visually she checks for the red, white and blue flag, the American flag. She has been blessed to be married to an American. Americans are honorable, and they don’t leave their wives.

Her marriage cost her dearly; her family disowned her when she chooses the religion of her husband and the customs of her husband. Struggling to provide food for herself and her child, her old profession comes to mind. No she says. She will not be anything but honorable. She will not return to dishonor. She has been freed from that. She will die of starvation before she will return to the geisha’s.

One day a ship arrives with an American Flag; it’s a naval ship. Excitedly, she gets her home ready for the return of her American husband. The wait was worth it after all. When the officers friend (the friend who warned “be careful she trusts you”) came from the harbor ahead of her husband and found her (former geisha girl) joyously busy being ready. The commonly accepted news (in the past) was horrifying for him to give. She was so innocent, so honest, so devoted. Madam Butterfly is confronted first by the wife of her American husband (The naval officer went back to America and married an American girl). The marriage of the geisha girl to the American Naval Officer meant nothing to him; this was convenience only. There is now no home for her son with his father. She, the geisha girl, takes her own life so her son can go with his father and have a mother and father.

Now, how on earth could any one be so cruel, so thoughtless? That poor geisha girl, but who really suffered here? My opinion is the real tragedy is about the deceiver. How can he live with what he did? How can he make it right? How many apologies can he give and everything be made okay? It can never be made okay in his case. His guilt resides with him forever. If his heart is so cold he has no guilt, then he is a wasted miserable man.

What happened to the girl is horrible; it is true, but she had honor. The man had no honor. To live without honor, I cannot imagine.

Sitting watching the end of this opera, my mind went to Peter. Check these words out:

Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with him." But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:54-62).

This is a well-known story; you know it I am sure. Check out the reaction of Jesus, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” What do you suppose went through the mind of Peter? Did Peter have a soft heart? What miserable disappointment he must have had in his heart. How horribly cowardly Peter turned out to be (a coward like the sailor). How could he be forgiven for such a betrayal? Their eyes met. He promised so many times. He said I love you; you are the Christ he claimed. I will go with you to death Peter promised. What could Peter say looking into the eyes of Jesus? Horrified, I suppose. I would be.

Is there any way for Peter to be redeemed? I wonder if Peter thought so. I would imagine he thought he was finished. He did go away and wept bitterly. I am sure he thought he was finished. I am sure he thought he would have to live with this guilt for the rest of his life, and he would have except the one Peter was dealing with had the power to forgive, regenerate, and cleanse. He cleanses from all unrighteousness. I believe the reaction by most to the Peter denying Jesus history is "poor Jesus." Peter treated Him unfairly. I think it was much different than that. I believe that Peter was the victim. He had no escape from his failure. He turned against the Lord, and Peter lost all creditability. Peter must have felt there was no hope for himself.

Here is what Peter learned in his bitter weeping:

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and“A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1-Peter 2:7-10 ).

Peter in his weeping found Jesus to be precious; he believed. No longer was he disobedient. He no longer rejected Jesus. No longer was Jesus an offense. No longer was he disobedient to the Word. He became supported by the Word of God. He could now say he was a chosen generation, a royal priesthood of a holy nation, even God’s own special person, who was called out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Jesus sees all of us. We all are in or were in darkness. We need to repent and trust Him. Not as one who is offensive, but trust Him as the Savior who promises forgiveness of all sins and promises life everlasting. A new life not free of hardship but a life of unbelievable joy.

Always love Jesus.

Ken Clouse
Lay Leader
North Michigan Reformation society

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