So often we struggle with our identity. Do you struggle with who you are? Have you ever hidden your identity? What is your true identity?
I want to bring up a story of a man who hid his identity. You can read about it in a Bible in Luke 22, starting in verse 54.
This is the story of a crisis of identity in the life of Jesus’ most famous disciple, Peter. Remember this story? The story takes place in the final hours of Jesus’ life when he was arrested. Earlier that evening, Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny Jesus, to which Peter vehemently responded, “No way, I will never do that.” But after Jesus was arrested and put on trial, after the rest of the disciples fled the scene in fear, Peter hung in there, and then he was ID’d. Look at verses 54-62. Peter should have identified with Jesus, and yet he said strongly, “I don’t know him!”
This should sound familiar, as there are ways big and small that all of us have denied him, hiding our identity.
And yet, a few days later, after his resurrection, Jesus meets with Peter on the lake shore.
Turn to John 21, which takes place maybe a few days or weeks later. Peter’s denial had never been resolved. We don’t know if any of the other disciples were aware of Peter’s denial. Did they see it? John’s account makes it seem like John was there too. Maybe John saw it go down, but it’s not certain. If no disciples heard about it, did Peter tell them what happened? Or did he hide it from them? Peter doesn’t seem like the type to hide things, but then again, it would have been embarrassing for him to reveal his total failure when he denied Jesus, hiding his identity as a disciple of Jesus. But Jesus knew. In Luke’s account we read that after Peter’s third bold denial of his identity as a follower of Jesus, when the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked right at him. Whew. That scene is just popping with emotion. Imagine how Jesus felt as his close friend, one of his inner three, Peter, denies him. Imagine how Peter felt when Jesus turns and looks Peter in the eye. Luke tells us Peter went outside weeping bitter tears.
So while Peter must have been elated about Jesus’ resurrection, the denial moment has never been dealt with. Peter’s betrayal is hanging like a heavy wet blanket between him and Jesus. Do you know that feeling, when there is a brokenness, a hurt between you and another person? Into that tension, look what happens in John 21, verses 15-19.
Jesus reinstates Peter, three times asking, “Do you love me?” One for each denial. He then reaffirms Peter by saying, “Feed my sheep,” three times, resurrecting Peter’s true identity, overturning each of Peter’s three denials. Jesus was saying, “Peter, you denied me…three times. You hid your identity, but all is not lost. I know who you really are. Reclaim your true identity. Live out who you truly are.”
That is what he says to each one of us too. Claim your true identity as “in Christ.” Claim the victory and new life that you have in Christ.
What we identify with shapes our actions. Allow yourself to pause and acknowledge your identity in Christ. Allow it to shape you, to shape how you think and how you look at the world, and therefore how you live.
When we so fully acknowledge with Jesus, we need not fear, because we are in him, and we can give our lives as he did for us. This is why Paul would go on to say some powerful things:
- Romans 12:1-2 – Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.
- Philippians 3:10 – I want to know Christ and power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.
- Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.
How do we so fully identify like this with Jesus in the real world of our lives and our communities? It can be hard to know what this means. Check back in to the next post as we’ll try to answer that question.