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“And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
That passage from Luke 22:62 and Matthew 26:75 describes how Apostle Peter responded after denying that he even knew Jesus – a man Peter had traveled with every day for more than three years, and a man who considered Peter to be one of his closest earthly friends.
I sometimes wonder how I would react in a similar situation if I felt threatened by a mob to denounce my faith, or I had a gun held to my head and told to either denounce Jesus or be shot, which happens frequently in socialist and communist countries.
Could I ever deny knowing Jesus?
Jesus Christ has done way too much for me, and he promises to do even more, so how could I possibly disown him? I hope I’d have the strength to stand for what I know to be true. Because if I ever denied knowing Jesus, like Peter did, I would weep bitterly myself.
I would feel the same way in rejecting Jesus that I suspect non-believers will feel the moment they discover Jesus is, in fact, real.
But, they didn’t reject Jesus under mob pressure or threat of impending death. They voluntarily rejected him. They denied Jesus existed at all, or that he was the son of God.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes what it will be like on the day when people who believe in him and those who do not actually stand before him in a final judgement.
Those who had a relationship with Jesus will be welcomed to enter his eternal kingdom, but those who rejected him will be led away to an eternity completely absent of light, love, joy or hope.
I suspect those people who were astonished to discover Jesus was, indeed, real will attempt to justify their lack of faith by claiming they were never really told who Jesus was and why it was so important to believe in him. (John 3:16)
That’s when every encounter they ever had with a person of faith who tried to tell them the truth about Jesus will be brought to mind along with their response to those believers. That’s when they’ll understand the gravity of their ignorance or arrogance.
They’ll realize they were told of God’s promises of eternal life and what it took to secure it – faith – several times during the course of their lives. But, they rejected Jesus’ free gift and may have even mocked his offer.
Rather than hearing Jesus welcoming words “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness,” (Matthew 25:23) they will hear Jesus tell them, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” (Luke 13:27-28)
At that moment, they will also weep bitterly because they’ll understand they made the wrong choice, but time had run out for them to pursue a relationship with Jesus.
God wasn’t sending them to hell, they chose it for themselves.
Like Peter, they will have denied Christ, but they won’t have any recourse. The door will have shut.