Let’s set the stage. Jesus and His disciples are in Jerusalem sharing the Passover meal. This meal celebrates the Israelite’s delivery from bondage in Egypt. In the final plague God visited on Pharaoh, the first born of each family without the lamb’s blood spread on their door frame was killed (Exodus 12). This symbolic lamb pointed hundreds of years forward to Jesus, the true Passover lamb, the God-man sacrifice for our sin.
During the meal, Jesus is telling His disciples what will follow in plain language. He directly addresses Peter (Simon):
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus knows that Peter, the rock on which His church will be established, will deny Him three times this very night. Peter’s alter-self, Simon, will take the reins in this uncertain time, but Jesus calls him to repent, to turn, afterwards.
This word arrested my attention; I’ve been pondering it in the context of my own fallibility. How often I’ve had to turn. This also led me to reconsider the words of the Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn! The lyrics are based on Ecclesiastes 3 by King Solomon. I’d always thought of the repeated “turn, turn, turn” phrase as commenting on the inevitable transition from one season and purpose to the next. It probably does.
Here’s another take based on Jesus’ conversation with Peter. Our lives are characterized by “turn” because we are not perfect, because we will make mistakes.
Turn, turn, turn.
The trick is the turn, not the absence of it. Jesus knew Peter would fail; he knew that Simon was lurking in the shadows. He didn’t withdraw His love, though. Jesus will never, ever abandon you. He prayed for Peter; he pleaded on Peter’s behalf. He called him to repent, to turn, and, once he had, to fulfill his purpose. You see, Jesus selected Peter as His church-rock, weakness and all (Matthew 16:18). “Strengthen your brothers, Peter.”
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
Peace to you, friend.