Witnessing Tomorrow

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:66-72)

Only hindsight is twenty-twenty. Even if you knew what the future held, it wouldn’t affect your choices. Peter knew the future; he knew his future. But Peter remembered Jesus’ words and took them to heart only after he had fulfilled them. He did not remember Jesus’ words the first time he denied Christ. He did not remember them the second time. He didn’t even remember them after the third time! He only remembered the words of Jesus when he heard the rooster crow. After it was too late. Only when Jesus’ prophesy was completely fulfilled did Peter recognize that he had somehow done just what Jesus predicted he would do.

Prophesy does not get in the way of human freedom of choice. Peter was not a puppet being pulled along by his strings. He made every bad choice of his own free will, not once, but three times. And when it was over, he did not think to himself, “I had no choice in that,” or “God made me do it.” He didn’t even think, “the Devil made me do it.” He knew, in the depths of his soul, that he had done it all by himself. So he reacted accordingly: with overwhelming guilt and despair. He knew it was his own choices that had brought him to that place.

That God knows ahead of time what you will do, that in some sense the future has already been determined, nevertheless does not violate your freedom—or the responsibility you bear for your actions.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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