Category Archives: Life of Christ

Relentless Joy

Meditations on the Psalms

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.(Psalm 4:7 ESV)

Our expectations, because of the image of God in us, are to naturally do that for which we were created. God created us for relationship with Him. Sin brought rebellion, making the world a dangerous place. Our expectations of God are He must bless us, and when He doesn’t according to our arbitrary standard, we curse Him. We cease to rely upon God, not realizing all we have, our very lives, are given us by His grace and sustained by His decision.

Jesus tells us God gave Him more delight and contentment, because of Their relationship, than any person could have, even when all their perceived needs and wants are met. God put joy in His heart.

Joy means mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure, and can mean happiness. Spiritual joy is more than happiness. Spiritual joy is the relentless pleasure of intimately knowing God. Abound means to increase or become many, great, or long. We measure our riches with physical belongings, pleasurable and sensual activity, or manipulative control like power, grasp that which will last only a short time. If our measure does not last for eternity then we settle for failure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, demonstrated her joy in intimately knowing Jesus. John tells us she was the one who anointed Jesus. “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (John 11:2 ESV). John tells us this fact before it happened in the sequence of the story because her devotion is important to Jesus, bringing Him great pleasure and joy. What she did for Jesus is given prominence in the declaration of the gospel. “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13 ESV; see Mark 14:9). God is not selfish in accepting the worship of those He created for relationship with Him.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume, pure nard, or spike nard. “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 ESV). Spike nard perfume was expensive because the plant from which it is derived, Nardostachys jatamansi, also called Indian spike, grows only in the Himalayas. Nard also means having the power of persuasion, skillful in producing belief, trustful, relied upon. Mary used a perfume to anoint Jesus which symbolically described His character and personality. Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by cleaning His feet with the perfume and drying His feet with her hair. She would, if necessary, die for Him.

But there was one present who thought more like the world than like one abandoned to God. Judas, who would betray Jesus, who was charged as the Disciple’s treasurer, who stole money from the moneybag for himself, was displeased with Mary’s devotion.“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV; see Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:5). His focus was upon what God should do for him, not what he was obligated to do for God. He who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His words and teachings, spent enough time with the Son of Man to intimately know Him, hated Him. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities that wanted to kill Him, for a handful of money. Perhaps his hatred grew over time as he saw missed opportunities to increase his own wealth and standing in the world. He wanted an abundance of grain and wine, measuring his riches with a temporary, transient standard, refusing to see those riches would be destroyed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV)

Jesus tells us to find our joy in Him, in eternity and in knowing God, which is the natural product of having the image of God. Our eternal joy cannot be found in the world or in anything of the world. Our worship of Him brings God great joy. He looks to eternity, where those who are His will no longer rebel against Him. They will have a righteous and healthy relationship with their Creator and will enjoy Him as He enjoys them. There is no sin in eternity in God’s presence.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV)

Jesus looked toward His death with anxiety and anticipation. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Before His crucifixion He raised Lazarus from the dead knowing He, though He would soon die on a cross, would not stay dead. We who believe His resurrection, who find ourselves in Him for eternity, give God the greatest joy. In turn, He fills us with His Spirit who gives an abundance of joy, with peace and rest, to we who are God’s.

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Unreasonable Expectations

Meditations on the Psalms

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” (Psalm 4:6 ESV)

We are faced with a paradox. In this Psalm, Jesus now speaks in the second person, telling us one aspect of the thinking of those who rebel against Him. People who dishonor God, who love to hear themselves talk, speaking vain words and lies, want God to listen to them and give them their desires. Built into the thinking of their hearts is the false idea God exists to serve them, not they Him. They believe they control God by offering sacrifices. In the space-time history of creation and the earth, people look to any who could offer them refuge and benefit from the constant presence of the danger they face because of sin.

Those same peoples who rage against God, the kings and leaders who conspire against Him, demand He bless them. They wonder why God has abandoned them and not given them that which is good, or pleasant and becoming, making them happy and glad, rich and secure in their welfare, given prosperity. They want Him to lift up the light of His face, to shine about them and on them, revealing the wonder of His countenance, blessing them and giving them all they desire. They are self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish individuals who care nothing for God, but still want Him to give them all they want and need and then leave them alone.

Light is a major theme throughout Scripture, beginning with Genesis. Before there was anything other than chunks of matter, God spoke and said “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 ESV). Light is the opposite of darkness, or the absence of light. Light is necessary for growth and health, for learning and understanding, for safety and security. Light exposes while darkness hides. Spiritually, God’s light exposes the darkness of sin while revealing His holiness. When many ask God to give them happiness without imposing Himself upon them, what they are asking is for God to bless them and let them live happily in their unrighteous behaviors. They want all the blessings of God without the presence of God.

When told by His disciples the religious leaders wanted to stone Him, therefore it was not a good idea to return to Jerusalem, even to heal a sick friend, Jesus responded with a metaphor of light. “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10 ESV). There is no reason to fear anyone while living in the absolute will of God.

After raising Lazarus, Jesus told His disciples He would die, being lifted up, a righteous sacrifice for them. He had already called Himself the “light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV). Now He tells them to live and act according to the knowledge and wisdom given by God.“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36 ESV). They will be assaulted by darkness, by sin and sinful behavior. Yet, Jesus promises they will be transformed by light, the intimate knowledge of God, becoming light themselves.

Just before the Passover, the time of His sacrifice, Jesus declared the practical application of faith in Him. Either people believe in Him or not. Those who believe in Him walk in the light, while those who reject Him continue walking in darkness

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50 ESV)

God is not going to bless anyone because of their unreasonable expectations of Him. No one can demand He do anything, for He is not controlled by any created being. His righteous light reveals the unrighteousness of rebellion. We should expect wrath. In Christ, He has given grace, mercy and salvation.

Peter, Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ  (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:18-22

Three times Peter denied Christ before those who murdered Him. Three times Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His Church. Peter received his marching orders, given a specific directive and mandate to teach and care for those who follow Jesus.

Jesus also hints to Peter what will happen in his future. While Jesus gives general predictions about what some Christians may suffer because of their relationship with Him, Peter receives a strong, pointed indication of how he will die. He feared standing before the authorities, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, desiring to kill Him. Peter ran when confronted by a mob and lied when confronted by a servant girl. Jesus taught His disciples that they would stand before authorities and to not worry about what they would say.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)

Jesus indicated that Peter would die in the same way Jesus had died, by crucifixion. But, Jesus was standing before Peter, resurrected from death, telling him these things. Peter would stand before the authorities and speak to them about his relationship with Christ. He would not deny Christ or lie about that relationship. And he will suffer the same death His Master suffered.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter would suffer for righteousness’ sake.

John wrote his gospel after Peter’s death. His next statement is parenthetical. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:19 ESV). John lived a long life of witness and persecution, finally being exiled toward the end of the century, to the island of Patmos where he died. His brother, James, was the first martyr of the disciples, murdered by Herod, who also imprisoned Peter. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3 ESV). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11). It was not time for him to die. All people will die only when God determines their lives in the world are completed.

Jesus gave Peter the same command here that He had given when He called the disciples. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19 ESV). Jesus expects absolute obedience to His commands from the person called. We are not afforded the luxury of comparing ourselves with others. Nor does Jesus command groups to follow Him. His summons is for the individual. We are called to stand alone before the authorities and give our witness of Jesus. When Peter turned and asked about another disciple, Jesus once again rebuked him. He did not want to go alone but, in the end, was willing. Death is an individual thing. Though large groups die together each dies separately. “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV).

There were two parts to Jesus’ answer. First was the will of God. That God has a purpose for each person becomes evident in this statement. That His purpose for one may affect others and does not preclude the demand all obey. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV). Jesus has told His disciples they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV; see Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24, Luke 14:27).

Secondly, Jesus reiterates the command for Peter to follow Him. “You follow me!” (John 21:22). It does not matter what others do or believe. It does not matter what happens to others. They are responsible to God. Each is responsible for their actions, motivations, thoughts and words. If they follow Jesus, good. If they do not follow Jesus, you must. Our following Jesus is not dictated by the circumstances we encounter in the world but by His call and our obedience.

Trust

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.(Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Sacrifices and offerings mean nothing when there is self-focus, not on the Object of the gift. A self-focus shows the thinking of the heart is not on God but on an idol. What can this idol do for me? How can I influence or control this idol to act in my favor? Self-absorbed offerings to God dishonor Him. This is why slaughtering a righteous sacrifice is important and why that offering must first be the person presenting the gift.

The writer of Hebrews gives a lengthy and concise description of the sacrifice of Christ shown in the sacrificial ordinances of the Mosaic Law. These sacrifices pointed to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV). Our righteous sacrifices and offerings are no longer clean animals but ourselves, abandoned to Him, living in the world as a testament to Him as He prepares us for eternity.

Though the Psalms show the thinking of the heart of Jesus Christ as He lived and ministered in the world and His trust in God, this is the first time in the Psalms the word trustis used. Trust means to have confidence in and to be bold for the Object of trust, because one is secure and safe in His presence. Trust is one of the basic elements of faith. Faith is always in an object one believes has worked and made promises and demands obedience.

Believing is the intellectual element of knowing the truth of God’s works in creation. Obedience is the willful, volitional element doing that which is a natural, essential part of the image of God in obeying the direction given. Trust is the emotional-moral element based on the promises of God. All three elements make up faith. Remove or lessen the action of any one of the elements and faith becomes something other than faith. It is always the Object which determines the truthfulness of faith. Only God can deliver that which He promises. No idol can ever promise anything let alone deliver on a promise. Idolatry becomes the person infusing a non-living, non-existent, or demonic entity with a fantasy promise based on a superstitious and unfounded belief.

Jesus was the only person who has ever lived who both completely trusted God and made promises to us only He can keep. Speaking to His disciples about Lazarus, Jesus declared He was going to raise him from the dead. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Jesus told Martha that those who believed in Him, which means trust Him, will not die spiritually. This declaration is a promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ESV). There are two more incidents which follow the raising of Lazarus found within the context of the story. Jesus promises that those who follow Him and serve Him will be with Him in eternity. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).

Jesus worked to glorify God. His promise follows God’s voice, thundering from heaven, that God will glorify His name and the Name of His Son. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28 ESV). Jesus then promises to draw all people to Himself as He is crucified, hanging on the cross. He also promises to defeat the Deceiver. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:30-32 ESV).

Jesus trusted God. Facing physical trauma, being tortured to death, produced emotional reactions from Him. He agonized over completing God’s will on the cross.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44 ESV)

Trust is an emotional act of the will believing that God will fulfill the promises He has made. We can trust God because Jesus trusted God. God always delivers what He promises.

Jesus Commissions Peter

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:15-17

Jesus never condemned Peter for any of his misstatements or compulsive actions. He rebuked Peter on many occasions. He predicted Peter would run away from Him during His arrest, just as all of His disciples fled. Jesus also knew Peter would verbally deny Him before those who wanted Him dead. Knowing what Peter would do does not mean Peter lost his position as the unofficial leader of the disciples. Peter did not need to be reinstated as a disciple because he had never lost his position as a disciple. Judas lost his position as a disciple when he murdered himself.

We are enabled to come to Jesus only because God draws us to Him.  Jesus calls everyone to come to Him, and those who are willing, respond. His call is not a request but a command. Those who respond do so out of obedience to God’s command. Those who do not come do so out of rebellion and hatred for God. God does everything needed for redemption, yet each person must still obey.

Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Why three times? Could it be Jesus is responding to Peter’s three denials, which Jesus predicted?

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17 ESV)

In this passage there are two words used for love. The first word is agapao, which means Godly, or high and devoted love. The second word is phileo, or love as a friend and can mean to kiss.  Jesus asks the first two times “do you agapao me” and Peter answers “yes, I phileo you.” Finally, Jesus meets Peter at his level and asks him “do you phileo me” and Peter answers in kind.  Jesus is challenging Peter’s love and Peter is grieved, or “cut to the heart” by Jesus’ questions.

Jesus, after each question, gives Peter a command. After the first question Peter is to “feed my lambs” and then to “feed my sheep.”  To feed means to give nourishment. It is the same word used when Jesus cast out Legion from the demoniac and there were pigs feeding nearby (see Matthew 8:30, Mark 5:11, Luke 8:32). Peter is to provide spiritual nourishment for those people who are new followers of Christ as well as those who are more mature in their faith. After the second question about Peter’s love, Jesus tells him to “tend my sheep” which means to govern or rule, to cherish as one’s own body and to serve the flock or Church. Christ is the head of His body, the Church. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV; see also Colossians 1:18). It is Peter’s work to be a fisher of men and to lead those so caught in their relationship with Christ.

Jesus uses both words, agapao and phileo, throughout His teaching, referring to the love God has for those created in His image and the love they return to Him because of their nature. It is the divine nature of man created in the image of God to love, agapao, those also created in His image. Even those who are considered the enemies of God are of such great value they are loved by God. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV). In addition, those who are His show the evidence of their love for God through their obedience to His commands.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:21-24 ESV)

Our commission, like Peter’s commission, is to love God and those with whom we live.

Righteous Sacrifice

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Jesus speaks in the first person to those people who dishonor His name and who love vain words, lifting themselves up above God. They do not stand before God with awe, refusing to ponder their own actions and motivations. He told them to contemplate their position before God and to silence themselves and their self-centered thinking. Jesus does not ask them to do anything. He commands them, with an expectation of obedience.

He tells them to offer the sacrifices of righteousness, not just a right sacrifice. Offer and sacrifice are words so closely related they mean almost the same thing. Offer means to kill or slaughter. Sacrificemeans the thing being killed or slaughtered. Slaughter your sacrifice. Commit your sacrifice completely and wholly to God so that it can never be taken back.

We think of form and function when we say right. We want to be correct in what we do and how we act, according to our policy and procedure manuals. This is not what He means by a right sacrifice. Yes, God gave them detailed instructions about what kind of sacrifice, when and where to offer it, and how they were to honor Him with their sacrifices. God told them why they were to offer sacrifices. But He also told them the thinking of their hearts affected their sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted because he was angry. He tried to buy God’s favor, to control God, with a sacrifice, as those who give superstitious offering to an idol. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). Speaking through Isaiah, God is blunt about what He thinks of the offerings of a people who hate Him.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17 ESV)

When did an offering become a sacrifice? When Abel and Cain brought their offerings, they were gifts to God. Sacrifices are required. God uses both words in the Pentateuch when giving instructions on worshiping Him. Sacrifices are obligatory, while offerings are gifts. Every person offering a sacrifice does so under compunction of the law, caused by sin and circumstance, while the one giving an offering does so out of the gratitude of the thinking of the heart toward God.

There was only one righteous sacrifice slaughtered for God. All other offerings and sacrifices point to the One Sacrifice, when Jesus offered Himself as the propitiation, the covering, for the sin of all. Jesus tells those who would follow Him the cost of discipleship. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Those who follow Jesus, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, abandon themselves to Him in complete devotion and offering. The identity of the Christian, those chosen by God, is complete. In God’s eyes, what He does the Christian does. The word appeal means to call or summon for encouragement or instruction.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

We know what we do is not always true to God as we live out our lives in the world. It is not what we do but what Christ has done for us.

Martha didn’t understand what Jesus could do yet still declared she believed Jesus was loved and known by God and that God would give Him whatever He asked. However, she did not believe He could bring life back to a dead body. Her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response was “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV). Jesus’ response to her is game changing.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

 Our lives are His. His life is given for us. Our identity is in Him. We slaughter ourselves as a righteous sacrifice to Him because He was slaughtered as a righteous sacrifice for us. Dying physically means nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Losing anything the world has to offer is of no consequence when we gain life in eternity.

You are the righteous sacrifice.

Peter’s Denial

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 54-60 – Parallel Passages: Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter may be the leader of the group of disciples but he represented every person in his actions at Jesus’ arrest. Do his arrogant boasts of following Christ to prison and death represent all Christians? Do his rash reactions, like swinging a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the people who came to arrest Jesus, represent all Christians? Does his running away when confronted by the world represent all Christians? Peter, and the other disciples, abandoned Christ, just as He said they would. Only Mark and Matthew tell us Jesus’ disciples ran away in fear. “And they all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50 ESV; see Matthew 26:56). Jesus had already predicted that those who were with Him would scatter. During His last the Passover celebration He taught them about Himself and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was leaving them and going back to His Father.

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Jesus also tells them that their abandoning Him was prophesied long ago. “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Mark 14:27 ESV; see Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah wrote his prophecy over 500 years earlier. Jesus does not condemn His disciples for what they will do but encourages them to not allow their fallen nature to overcome them. He tells them to take heart for He has overcome the world.

Peter, and those with him, will run away. We must be honest with ourselves, we would probably run away also, under the same circumstances. I would probably run away. One of characteristics of the fallen nature is the tug and pull away from righteousness even when the image of God within drives toward Him who is righteous. We are afraid of the world and have such little or nonexistent faith in God that when the world rears its violent head we may fight for a moment but eventually flee. No one, in and of themselves, is strong enough to stand against the force of the world directed by the venomous lies of the Deceiver. Only God is strong. We do not overcome the world. Jesus overcomes the world. We must be driven to the place where we recognize His strength in us under His control. This is what happens with Peter and the other disciples.

Once Jesus was arrested Peter and John followed at a distance. We assume John went because John records what happens. John is known to the High Priest and helps bring Peter into the courtyard where Jesus is being interrogated. Three times Peter is asked about his relationship with Jesus and three times he denies knowing Him.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:54-60 ESV).

Three times in an hour, Peter denied knowing Christ even though he was the leader of the disciples. Two things happened. Jesus who was enduring the derisive grilling of those who hated Him turned and looked at Peter. Jesus knew Peter was there because Jesus was aware of everything that was happening and that would happen. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV). When Peter realized what he had done he broke down and wept. He saw the emptiness of his boasting and his actions grieved him.

Our sin and the realization of the consequences of our sin, should drive us to grief. But the life of the Christian does not stop with grief and mourning. Peter did not fade away but became the leader of the Church, the Body of Christ. Peter may have momentarily abandoned Jesus but Jesus will never abandon him, or us. Though Satan asked to sift him, and God gave Satan permission to do so, Jesus still prayed for Peter and told him what to do once the trial was over. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). Peter would live out his life in faith doing exactly what Christ instructed. Peter would strengthen all those who follow Christ throughout the ages.