What is Brokenness?

We are continuing our meditation on Peter’s 3-time denial of Christ just a few hours before the crucifixion (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation on Peter’s brokenness). We are saying that the pressure put on Peter was used of God in breaking his heart, in order that he may be reliant on God’s strength rather than his own to lead the disciples. Jesus had said to him earlier: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). But the question remains with us, why would God want to break the heart of one of those He loves?

In Chapter 18 of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet was taken down to the Potter’s house and saw the potter making a jar of clay. It was all bent out of shape and had no beauty or correct shape to be used. The potter took it off the wheel and started again with the pliable clay to form it into what he wanted to create. The lesson that God was teaching Jeremiah and Peter (and us, too) is that through the brokenness, God will reshape every one of us. All He needs is a broken and contrite heart.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

A.W. Tozer once said, “God never uses a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” How can we define brokenness? Brokenness is the working of God in a person’s life leading to a point of abandonment of one’s self to a place of complete dependence and trust in the Father’s care. John Collinson, an English Vicar, put it this way:

When to do the will of God means that even my Christian brothers will not understand and I remember that even His brothers did not understand or believe in Him, and I bow my head to obey and accept the misunderstanding, this is brokenness. When I am misrepresented, or deliberately misinterpreted, and I remember that Jesus was falsely accused but He held his peace, and I accept the accusation without trying to justify myself, that is brokenness. When another is preferred before me and I am deliberately passed over, and I remember that they cried “away with this man and release unto us Barabbas” and I bow my head and accept rejection, that is brokenness.

When my plans are brushed aside and I see the work of years brought to ruins by the ambitions of others and I remember that Jesus allowed them to lead Him away to crucify Him, and He accepted that place of failure, and I bow my head and accept the injustice without bitterness, that is brokenness. When to be right with my God it is necessary to take the humbling path of confession and restitution, and I remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself to death, even the death of the cross, and I bow my head and I’m ready to take the shame of exposure, that is brokenness. When others take unfair advantage of me because I’m a Christian and treat my belongings as public property and I remember that they stripped Him, and parted His garments casting lots, and I bow my head and accept joyfully the spoiling of my goods for His sake, this is brokenness.

When one acts toward me in an unforgivable way and I remember when He was crucified, He prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and I bow my head and accept any behavior towards me as permitted by my heavenly Father, this is brokenness. When people expect the impossible of me, and more than time and human strength can give, and I remember that Jesus said, “this is my body which is broken for you” and I repent of my self-indulgence and lack of self-giving for others, this is brokenness.

Wherever these words find you today, if like Peter the apostle, you have just denied your Lord by your actions or words, know that He loves you and will restore you if you will turn to Him in brokenness and repentance: “But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him” (2 Chronicles 15:4).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

The Brokenness of Peter

We are meditating on the drama of the hours before the crucifixion of Christ (scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts), and today, especially, the three-time denial of Peter the disciple, soon to be apostle. Before he can become an apostle, the Lord allows him to become broken at his failure to be all that both he and Christ wants him to be. After already denying Christ twice, pressure builds again and he caves under it:

73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75).

Luke gives us more insight into what finally broke Peter’s heart and causing him to weep bitterly:

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:59-62).

How painful it was to hear the cock crow a second time and be immediately reminded of Jesus’ words that, before the cock crows, Peter would deny his Lord three times. In God’s sovereignty, the very same instant that Peter heard the cock crowing was the same time when Jesus was brought out of the house of Annas, to be taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas. As soon as the words of his third denial left Peter’s lips, the Lord looked at Peter and their eyes connected. There was no accusation in Jesus’ eyes, only sadness for Peter. The Greek word translated “looked” (v. 61) is emblepo. This word describes a fixed look, almost a stare. This look from Jesus broke Peter’s heart; he remembered all his protestations that he was capable of standing in the hour of trial, but instead, he failed miserably. He went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. The verb “wept” describes a weeping, mournful cry like those who are grieving the death of a loved one. He was brokenhearted at his failure.

Why is Peter’s failure recorded for us in such depth? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire each of the Gospel writers to focus on Peter’s denial? It is because God’s purpose is for a broken and contrite heart. We are not to focus so much on Peter’s failure as we are to his brokenness and repentance. How quickly he repented. We may never have denied Jesus with our lips in the way that Peter did, but I am sure that, at one time or another, we have denied Him with our actions. This passage is recorded for us to show us God’s mercy and complete forgiveness. God often allows us to experience pain, for it is an excellent teacher. Often, it is only when our pain makes us hit rock bottom and we are broken of our pride and self-adequacy, that we are brought to a place where we look to our Savior.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Peter was brought to a place of brokenness. The place of our brokenness is the place where God can step in and save and heal us. God’s school of training is more than Bible college and more than head knowledge. His training often includes brokenness and contriteness of heart. He molds and shapes our character through everyday situations. Some of the situations can be very trying, e.g. the death of a family member, a financial need, an impatient child. The list is endless.

The LORD will judge [for and on behalf of] his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free (Deuteronomy 32:36).

While we have adequate resources to fight our own battles, the Lord lets us carry on until we come to the place of brokenness and an end to fleshly ways and self. The Spirit will bring us to a place where we find ourselves devoid of help, having no strength left to accomplish what needs to be done, having no back-up plan, and no one but God to call to for help. That is the point at which God steps in to fight our battles for us. When we are weak, then we are strong in Him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).  May it be so with you, dear reader.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas