Krummacher: Peter’s Tears

Series: The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ by F. W. Krummacher (1796-1868)

[learn_more caption=”Introduction and Preface”] CMC Editor’s Note: In the following preface are the words of F.W. Krummacher introducing his readers to his work. It is our intention to post all fifty three of his meditations. Krummacher is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest preachers and was often compared to Great Britain’s C.H. Spurgeon. The reader will learn much of Christ through this series of devotional meditations on the final scenes in the life of Christ on earth. The printed work (first published 1854) has been described as the greatest single volume of the entire nineteenth century on the last days of Christ’s earthly ministry. The meditations are structured around the Old Testament tabernacle. It’s our prayer that you will be richly blessed his writings.

Author’s Preface

In the following meditations I trust I have succeeded in displaying to my readers at least a portion of those riches which are contained in the inexhaustible treasury of our Savior’s sufferings. Unmutilated scriptural truth, such as I believe I promulgate, still finds a favorable reception in the world, which I have been permitted to experience in the most gratifying manner. I mention it, solely to the praise of God, and for the satisfaction of those who are like-minded, that my writings, or at least a part of them, are, as I hear, already translated into English, French, Dutch, Swedish, and as I am assured, though I cannot vouch for the fact, into the Danish language also. My “Elijah the Tishbite” has even appeared in a Chinese attire. But that which is of greater importance, is the news I am constantly receiving of the manifold blessing which the Lord of his great and unmerited favor has bestowed upon my labors. That in his condescension and loving-kindness, He would also deign to bless this my most recent work is so much the more my heartfelt wish and ardent prayer, since it has for its subject the chief supporting pillar of the whole church—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The division of the work into the “Outer Court,” the “Holy Place,” and the “Most Holy Place,” is intended merely to point out the different stages of the Redeemer’s sufferings, from their commencement to their close, but by no means to attach a less or greater importance to them. Had the latter been the case, I would naturally have assigned the institution of the Lord’s Supper its appropriate place in the “Most Holy Place,” instead of the “Outer Court.” But in the plan of this volume, it falls among the class of events, which immediately precede the propitiatory work of the Mediator.

~ F. W. Krummacher [/learn_more]




Meditation – XXI

Peter’s Tears

“A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear.”
 Proverbs 18:14

Our present meditation will console us for the grief we experienced when considering the depth of Peter’s fall. The star of divine grace rises on that gloomy scene with benignant radiance. We here witness the shedding of tears, which, next to those that flowed from our Lord himself at the grave of Lazarus, over ungodly Jerusalem, and in Gethsemane, may be regarded as the most remarkable that were ever shed upon earth. They have dropped, like soothing balm, into many a wounded heart. May they not fail to produce a blessed effect on many of my readers, and be renewed in their experience!

We again meet with Peter at the horrible moment when completing his denial of Jesus, he formally abjures his discipleship with heavy curses. Observe, this is done by the very individual from whose lips the great confession had previously proceeded—”We have known and believed that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God;” and the ardent and sincere declaration—”Though all men should forsake you, yet will not I.” But what are even the best of men when left for a moment to themselves? And what would become of the most faithful of Christ’s followers, if the Lord were only for a short time to remove the restraints of his grace? O the folly of trusting to the finest feelings, seeing that we are not sure of them for a single second! What childish presumption to rely for success on the airy weapons of what men call good-will, or noble resolutions! We might indeed do so, if the “weak flesh” did not always accompany the “willing spirit,” and if Satan did not always go about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Peter has first to learn, in the school of experience, like us all, that we presume too much if we rely upon ourselves, even in the most trifling temptation. The love of Christ constrains us to venture everything for him; but it is only the belief in Christ’s love for us, and the trusting to his gracious power and strength, that enables us to overcome. He who trembles at himself, as being capable above others of denying his Master, will gain greater victories than he who deems himself sufficiently strong to be able to say, “Though all men forsake you, yet will not I.” “You stands by faith,” writes Paul to the Romans, “Be not high-minded, but fear.” “Therefore,” says the same apostle, “I will rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Peter is vanquished. Hell triumphs. And why should she not? Had ever a soul become hers which had drawn down upon itself the curse so deservedly as that of this apostate disciple? and did the cause of Christianity, so hated by her, ever receive such a painful shock as in this instance, where one of its apostles basely succumbs under the first danger which menaces a candid confession of his discipleship, and is unable to find language strong enough for his affirmation that “he knows not the man?” Nevertheless, hell begins to cry “victory” too soon. There is no such hurry with regard to the curse which is to light upon Peter. Listen to what is passing in the judgment hall of the palace.

The appalling sentence has just been uttered in the midst of a tumultuous uproar, “What further need have we of witnesses! He has blasphemed God, and is guilty of death.” “Who?” we ask, astonished. “Simon Peter?” No, another—a Holy One: even he who once exclaimed, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” He is now ready to do so, and Peter belongs also to his flock, from whom the curse is transferred to him, the Surety, and with respect to whom the words are henceforth applicable, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” As regards the shock which the cause of the Gospel endured through Peter’s denial, it will survive this also. Yet a little while, and there is One who will be able to give such a turn to the whole affair that it must tend rather to the advancement than the injury of the Gospel.

Just as Peter has filled up the measure of his sin by a formal repudiation of his Master, the cock crows. What is the result? A return to sober-mindedness, repentance, and tears. God only knows with what clamor Satan deafened the disciple’s ears so that the first cry of the feathered watchman did not penetrate into them. Peter sank only still more deeply into the snare, and midnight darkness, enlightened only by solitary flashes of his accusing conscience, enveloped his mind.

An awakener of some kind or other is appointed to every one. Wherever we may be, there are voices which call us to repentance. Nature, as well as our whole life, is full of them, only our ears are heavy and will not hear. There is an awakening call in the rolling thunder, which is a herald of infinite majesty—in the lightning, which darts down before you, carrying with it destruction—in the stars, which look down upon you from such remote regions, as if they would say, “How far, O man! are you cast out from your home!”—in the flower of the field, which, in its transient blooming and fading, depicts your own brief existence upon earth—in the midnight hour, when the church-bell strikes upon your ear, like the pulse of time, which rapidly hasten sway, and calls out to you to hasten to save your soul. No, where are we not surrounded by awakening voices of this nature? They sit upon the tombstones of our church-yards, and their language is, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.” Their warning voice resounds from every funeral car that rolls past you. It may be heard on every birthday which you celebrate; in every fit of illness by which you are attacked; in every danger that threatens your life; as well as in that secret uneasiness which incessantly steals through your soul.

And besides these general calls to repentance, do we not find something similar in every family circle and in each individual? Some unrepented sin lies upon your soul. When will this awakening call fill your eyes with tears? One misfortune after another has lately crossed your threshold. O how many alarming voices have been contained in these strokes of the Almighty’s rod! You feel your strength decaying, and that the sun of your life is declining. Do you not hear in this fact the crowing of the cock? On every side we may be conscious of it—in visions of the night, in the events of the day, in serious thoughts, which we are unable to prevent, in sermons and admonitions which are addressed to us. But to what purpose? Something must be added to this warning cry—something superior and more powerful than itself, or it will never succeed in awakening us, who are by nature so “uncircumcised in heart and ears,” from our deadly sleep.

The cock in the court-yard of the high priest crows a second time, and this call enters and finds a response. Day begins to dawn upon Peter, awakened by the remembrance of his Master’s warning, and while reflecting on the abyss into which he has plunged himself. But if he shudders with horror, hell may share his terror, since the second crowing of the cock is to her what the trumpets of Joshua were of old to the walls of Jericho, casting down, on a sudden, all the proud trophies of victory she had already erected.

Let us, however, return for a few moments, to see what occurred in the council hall just before this second warning. Something of importance has just taken place. The accused has declared upon oath that he is the Son of the living God. The high priest, in dissembled indignation, rends his clothes. Amid wild uproar sentence of death is pronounced upon the Holy One of Israel, and the minions of justice seize him to lead him away into the court-yard, and there vent upon him their unlicenced fury. The divine sufferer has just passed through the doorway into the court-yard when the crowing of the cock reaches his ear. “And the Lord turned himself;” we know toward whom. That sound announced to him his disciple’s fall, and his eye and his compassionate heart go in search of him.

Such is Jesus the Savior. He embraces his followers with more than maternal tenderness, and their want of fidelity does not prevent his being faithful. What waves of sorrow beat over his head, and yet he can forget everything in his anxiety for his fallen disciple! Sooner than one of them should be forgotten, he would forget the government of the world; and would suffer the nations to take their course, rather than lose sight of one of his little ones. As long as a rose of his planting blooms on the earth, this desert is to him a delightful garden, and he leaves heaven to tend and nourish this plant. And happy are you who are the weak of the flock, the poor and needy above others! It would seem that you lie the nearest to his heart.

Deeply was Peter immersed in the mire of sin, yet the Lord turned toward him. Who among us would have troubled himself further about such a faithless deserter from the ranks? If such characters were referred to us, it would go ill with them. How ready we are to stamp and reject such stumbling brethren as hypocrites! Instead of moving a finger to restore them, we not infrequently plunge them deeper into the mire, and persecute them worse than the world does. If Jerusalem is besieged, Judah assists in the blockade. The Lord, on the contrary, whose right alone it is to judge in such cases, is not ashamed to deign to act the part of the woman in the Gospel, who having lost one of her pieces of silver, strikes a light, seizes the broom, and ceases not to stir up the dust until it is discovered; and when found, she calls her neighbors together, and says, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece of silver, which I had lost.” His children are dearer to him than the brethren often are to us.

Tell me, you that are parents, do your erring sons and disobedient daughters cease to be your children because of their aberrations? Do you not rather still more deeply feel that they are bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh? Does not your love to them increase with the danger to which you see them exposed? And are you not more fully conscious, when compelled to weep over them, that your life is bound up with theirs, than when they merely caused you joy? If you then, being evil, cannot reject your own seed, how should He be able to forget those who are of his flesh and blood, who said, “As my Father loves me, so have I loved you;” and by the mouth of his prophet, “Can a woman forget her nursing child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, she may forget, yet will I not forget you. Lo, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Peter, though fallen, still belonged to him. Though he had acted so wickedly, yet his Master’s love for him remains unchanged. See how carefully he looks round after him! For the second time it might be said, with reference to Peter, “When I passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you, when you were cast out into the open field, and lying in your blood, yes, I said unto you, when you were in your blood, live!” Certainly, had it not been the Lord’s will that we should believe that the covenant of grace, on his side, stood inviolably fast, he would have hesitated to have set before us such examples as those of David and Peter. “And Jesus turned and looked upon him.” Yes, “though we believe not, yet he abides faithful; he cannot deny himself;” for “the foundation of God stands sure; having this seal, the Lord knows them that are his.”

The Lord turned himself. The conversion of every sinner begins with that for which David prays, “Look upon me!” By nature we are like dry bones in a huge church-yard, and cannot come to him. But as soon as the Lord begins to look upon us, its effect is soon felt. Before we are aware we enter into closer connection with him, and feel that he is near us. We are conscious of being deeply and wondrously affected by things, which, otherwise, we scarcely noticed. The idea occurs to us, in a variety of circumstances, that God intends by them to call us to repentance, and we are often inclined to say with Jacob, “Surely the Lord was in this place.” The Almighty is then no longer distant from us on some far-off height, but pervades our chamber, and meets us in the daily occurrences of life. Not a day passes without something happening which compels us to say, “It is the Lord!” Yet this state of things may continue long without our attaining to real conversion of heart. But when the Faithful Shepherd begins to follow after us, he does not leave us without accomplishing his purpose.

It was not simply the crowing of the cock that raised the disciple from his fall. Nor did the turning of the Lord toward him produce the desired effect. A third and more powerful means was added. What was it? A word, a call, an exhortation?—No; a look which the eye of the Keeper of Israel cast upon his disciple, who was staggering on the brink of destruction. This look did wonders. “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” What a look must that have been! What divine sorrow and love must it have expressed! and how accompanied by the effulgence of the Spirit and the radiance of divine grace! It acted both as a sword to wound, and as a balm to heal. It struck like destroying lightning, and at the same time expanded itself like refreshing dew.

O there is inexpressible power in the look of the Lord! With a look of majesty he beholds the earth, and it trembles. With a judicial look he overtakes the sinner, who exclaims, “I perish at his presence.” His dying look on the cross melts stony hearts, and transforms lions into lambs. With a look of forgiving mercy, he makes a contrite soul forget heaven and earth in its happiness; and by means of a grieved and loving look, he restores lambs to his fold, which had long gone astray in the wilderness. To this day his people feel that his eyes are upon them, and according to what they read in them, their peace or joy rises or falls.

The Lord’s look did not fail of its effect upon Peter. No sooner did the disciple’s eyes meet his, than the magic band which held him is dissolved, the infernal intoxication dispelled, his ear opened, and reflection returns—no, sin is acknowledged—his heart is melted—the snare is broken, and the bird has escaped. “Gracious God,” is now his language, “how deeply have I fallen! Wretch that I am, was not all this foretold me? Said he not on the way, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me thrice?’ Woe is me, that in foolish presumption I repelled the warning, and only remember it now, when it is too late! I vowed to go with him to prison and to death; and yet I am the first to deny and abjure him! How is it that the earth still bears me, and that heaven’s lightnings do not blast me! Instead of which, he who so kindly forewarned me, and whom I nevertheless abjured and ignored, deigns me still a look of pity and compassion!”

Such may have been the language of Peter’s soul, when, as the narrative informs us, “he remembered the word of the Lord, which he had spoken to him.” He would now have infallibly become a prey to despair, had not the Savior’s loving-kindness, by means of the conversation on the way to Gethsemane, made every arrangement for preventing Satan from sifting the poor disciple too severely. His Master’s prayer, that “his faith might not fail, had surrounded the abyss, as it were, with a balustrade, and by his injunction, that “after his conversion, he should strengthen his brethren,” had made preparation for wiping away his tears long before they fell. O how did the soothing influence of all the words which the gracious friend of sinners had spoken to him, shed itself upon his heart, when to them was added that look so full of mercy and compassion!

Certainly, no one ever felt himself more unhappy than Peter; but what would have been his misery had not the gracious wings of divine pity been extended over him. Peter, by the look of his Master, is wholly dissolved in grief and humiliation. He covers his head with his mantle, as if he was unworthy to appear before God or man, and begins to “weep bitterly.” These are the tears, of which it is written, “Put them into your bottle; are they not in your book?” and from the sowing of which a harvest of joy is promised. Like the pearly drops which burst, in spring, from the branches of the vine, they testify of the existence of life; and in the eye of the sinner, announce to Satan the loss of his suit, and the end of his triumph. O how much is reflected in these tears! What thorough contrition before God, what holy indignation against sin, what an ardent thirst for grace, and what fullness of fervent love to the Lord beam forth from their pure light! “Be not dreadful to me, you who are my refuge in distress! Cast me not away from your presence! Whom have I in heaven but you?” such are the aspirations which issue from his heart. All his desire and longing center in this, that he may again rejoice in the favor of the Lord. Though he were to become an outcast from the world all the days of his life, and as regards his body, were compelled to follow in the steps of Job and Lazarus, yet he would gladly submit to all this, if he might only again hope for mercy. His tears announce the birth of a new man. The old, presumptuous, self-seeking, self-trusting Adam is dead, and a man of humility, filial resignation to God, and sincere desire that the name of the Lord may alone be glorified, rises, phoenix-like, from his ashes.

It is said that a tear glistened in Peter’s eye as long as he lived. If this is anything but a legend, it was not a tear of sorrow only, but of joy at the mercy experienced, tempered only by a permanent melancholy. The remembrance of his fall never left him for a moment; and in the degree in which it kept him low, it sharpened his spiritual vision for the mystery of the cross and of salvation by grace. This is abundantly evident, especially in his first epistle. He there comforts believers with the cheering assurance that they are “kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” He calls upon them to “hope to the end for the grace that shall be revealed.” He impressively reminds them of the weakness and evanescent nature of everything human, while calling to their recollection the words of the prophet: “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away.” He speaks of “the precious blood of Christ as of a Lamb without spot,” with a fervor which immediately indicates him as one who had deeply experienced its healing power. It is he who addresses the warning to us, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” And when he quotes the psalm in which it is said, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous; and his ears are open to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil”—does it not seem as if he intentionally referred to that look from his Master, which had once so overwhelmed him and cast him to the ground?

In conclusion: are there any of my readers who, with reference to Peter, are presumptuous enough to say with the Pharisee of old, “God, I thank you that I am not as that man!” O how much of the guilt of denying Christ, either in a gross or subtle manner, rests upon us all! How much reason have we also to be alarmed at the words, “He who denies me; him will I also deny before my Father in heaven.” Let us therefore cover our heads with our mantles, and with Peter, go out and weep bitterly; that a day of grace may also dawn upon us, and that the words of the apostle may be also applicable to us, “Such were some of you, but you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”


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