Sirens. Lots of them.
I might not have heard them, but one of my sons and I were engaged in a dart game or a few out in the garage. The recent blizzard had receded. We had the garage door open. And we started hearing sirens.
I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but it was pretty certainly something pretty bad. I still don’t know, but some other friends who were outside that evening told me the next day that they’d actually heard the sounds of a massive crash, metal into metal, vehicle into vehicle, that preceded the sirens. The highway intersection is a couple of miles away and has for years offered regular and plentiful opportunities for wrecks.
Oh, there’s a stop sign or two on one of the roads. But you’ve been driving for miles and miles of nothing. You start out in a state where the authorities don’t think you can manage more than 55 mph. Were it not for cruise control, I don’t know many mortals who can possibly keep their craft at 55. I’d be impressed if you could set it at 60 and manage keep your foot from nudging the accelerator.
Then you crawl across the state line and are welcomed to 75 mph. That, honestly, may be a little fast, but it feels like somebody just took the practice weights off your bat and you can finally swing. You’ve been slogging through snow uphill in your boots (to pick up a lost glove?), but now you’ve got your skis on again, and . . . yes!
But even at that speed, the miles add up slowly, the scenery is nondescript, pretty much nonexistent, and boring. The hum of the road, the swaying of your craft, and the weight of your eyelids all conspire against you. And suddenly, stop signs and a T into a bigger and busier highway. If all goes as it should, you stop. But too often, “it” doesn’t, and folks don’t. And bad things happen.
The Apostle Peter wasn’t the only one at the wreck. He wasn’t the only one who blew past more than a few warning signs. But he was the apostle who flew right on past the first crash into an even bigger one.
It had been a crazy and mind-boggling week. They’d just eaten the Passover meal in that “upper room.” Their Lord had been saying some incredibly perplexing, and now troubling, things—even more often than usual.
They’d gone out to the Mount of Olives, and Jesus had predicted, and I’m paraphrasing, “Before this is over (and it won’t be over when you think it is), you’ll all desert me.”
Peter had bristled, “Lord, even if the rest of this crew fails you, I never will! I’ll die first!”
With tired but loving eyes, Jesus says, “No, a rooster will crow twice first, and you’ll deny—thrice.”
They trudge to Gethsemane. And Jesus asks Peter, James, and John to “keep watch and pray” as, a little way away, he struggles in poignant prayer. And three times he returns to find that no one, including Peter who’d blustered, “I’ll die rather than deny!” has even been able to stay awake.
Lessons abound. But maybe one of the most important is that we need to be careful not to blow past the warning signs the Lord always give us, particularly perhaps when we are feeling quite “spiritual,” certainly a cut above the rest, and a bit impressed with our own deep devotion.
Lulled into complacency, we can easily doze off, blast past the signs, and right into a wreck.
You know, of course, that Jesus would pick up the pieces. Peter would do great work and, yes, die for his Lord.
But on this night, Peter the Rock crumbled, slept, and then denied.
If that can happen to the Apostle Peter when he is, not coincidentally, feeling spiritually strong and full of himself, I’m thinking I need nothing less than Christ’s power to stay awake and keep my eyes open to stop signs, my ears open to sirens, and my heart open to humility.
Copyright 2021 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.