Tag Archives: prayer

Facing Death

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

Only God can both save and deliver anyone’s life from death. Those who have faced death and lived are better able to see and know the value, or lack of value, of their life compared to their stuff. For those who face certain death, yet continue to live and who have no hope for eternity, their property becomes the only reason to live. Without their belongings they have nothing. They know they cannot take anything with them when they die so they cling to life as long as possible and covet that which was never theirs. For those who have hope for eternity, who know they are known and loved by God, material possession carries little or no value. Spiritual maturity brings a realization that only that which is eternal holds eternal value. Only the Word of God (God Himself) and people created in His image have value. 

Only God can determine eternal value. He created people for relationship with Him because He wants them with Him for eternity. Those who rebel against Him will continue to exist for eternity but will exist away from His known presence.

Hezekiah lay dying. Isaiah came to the king, delivering a hard message. “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24). Despondent, facing imminent death and deeply afraid, Hezekiah prayed.“‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:3). Isaiah returned, giving another message to the king.“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5 ESV; see 1 Kings 20:5). God listened to king Hezekiah. He did not avoid death but was given more time.

There are two things we should note about king Hezekiah. He did follow the LORD with his whole heart, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD.“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV; see 2 Chronicles 31:20). But his righteous works did not follow in those extra years given by God. The evidence is shown in the life of his son, Manasseh.  

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV; 2 Chronicles 33:9).

King Hezekiah was rich and became proud. After God healed him he did not continue working for God with his whole heart but exulted in his riches. Though he humbled himself, and God saved Judah and Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians, God still punished Israel for not seeking Him with the whole thinking of their hearts.

“But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:25-26 ESV).

God turned away from His judgment and delivered Hezekiah’s life. God saved him because of His love. In his later life, Hezekiah did not return to God the compassion and grace he was given. 

God did not turn away from, or stop the required judgment against sin endured by Jesus even when He asked God. Jesus did respond to God’s mercy and compassion in a way that lifted up God before all the people.

Without an eternal perspective life is self-focused and people are self-absorbed. Created in the image of God, people are given the natural and eternal ability to know Him intimately. Replacing Him with stuff is idolatry. Those who do not intimately know God are agonizingly afraid of death and the unknown. Those who do intimately know God, and are known by Him, are peacefully at rest with death. There may be fear of the process of dying but not of death itself. Death, separation from this sinful world, our sinful flesh and the constant attacks of the Deceiver, brings relief. We know this because of Jesus, who was raised from the dead, tells those who are His they will be with Him in eternity. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

Advertisements

Abiding Love

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

God turns toward those He calls, offering them His eternal mercy as they obey Him. He cannot abide sin in His presence. David’s words in this Psalm are a reflection of his words in Psalm 5, which pronounces judgment upon those who turn away from God. 

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

God does not trust those who are in rebellion against Him. In the deepest thinking of their hearts lives the desire to do whatever can be conceived to hurt or kill God. People hate God and hate truth, evidenced by their clinging to the insanity of sin. Though created in His image, with all the tools needed to fulfill the design for their lives given by God, people are corrupt and unwilling to work for Him. No one who has sinned is able to do anything to make them righteous before God. God’s intent is to show all who rebel against Him their abject spiritual poverty and do for them that which they cannot do for themselves. He offers all people salvation from His justified wrath. But, they must trust Him and turn toward Him.

Mercy is active love. God actively loves those He has created in His image. Love is God’s active goodness and kindness toward everyone. His purpose for creating people in His image is for intimacy, which is a natural element of God’s eternal character. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

No one controls God. Those He brings into His presence enter because they obey His command to repent and declare His Son Messiah, Savior because of what He did. God decided to place upon His Son the sin of those in the world, who rebelled against Him, because of His eternal love for them, not because of anything they could do. People can do nothing to earn salvation. Nothing. God delivers life because of His eternal love. Our response to His love is to love Him in return. 

Hezekiah’s words express his eternal response to God even while his eyes are fixed on his temporary circumstance. “The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 38:20 ESV). With the tools given in the image of God, people can think eternally. God wants us to recognize sin and hate it. He wants us to see our inability to do anything for ourselves that is righteous. He wants us to acknowledge all He has done for us by His grace. He loves us and wants an intimate relationship, receiving our love for Him as a natural part of our being His.

Turn means to return, come back, rotate toward. Where God turned His back on sin, He turns again and faces the one He loves. Deliver means to make strong, to withdraw or draw off, to rescue and set free. Soul is the same word used in 6:3. His soul was greatly troubled and now He is asking for God to withdraw His anger and wrath and give comfort and security. God’s steadfast love means His great mercy, His eternal purpose exercised in conjunction with His eternal goodness. To save means to give victory, be liberated and freed from the effects and sentence for sin. David, Hezekiah and Jesus all prayed God would keep them alive. Death is the ultimate consequence for sin. David and Hezekiah died and those who followed them turned away from God and were banished from the kingdom. Jesus died and was raised, and those who follow Him turn toward God as eternal citizens of His kingdom.

God turns toward the individual who rebels against Him, reaching out in compassion and love. He will not face them for eternity if they refuse to obey His commands and directives.

Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. People continue to sin as long as they remain in the world. Sin has immediate and eternal consequences. Immediate consequences of sin affect the person and those who surround the person, who are influenced by them, even remotely. Eternal consequences are separation from Him who sustains life, which is existence without nourishment. Jesus took upon Himself the eternal consequences of sin and immediately gave to those who are His, the covering of His blood. People who sin, even those covered by the blood of Christ, suffer the immediate consequence but not the eternal effects. 

God turns toward us because we are found in Him. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God delivers us from death because His Son died in our stead and was raised. God loves us with steadfast love because He created us for relationship, giving His image to people. We are saved by Him and for Him. That we would continually acknowledge and praise Him and grow in our intimate knowledge of Him should be natural.

Sentencing

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,(Psalm 5:10 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the last week of His earthly ministry, He went to the Temple, His Father’s house, and cleared away the vendors and moneychangers. He disrupted Annas’ Bazaar, violently driving them from the Temple grounds. In the Gospel of John, at the beginning of His ministry when He did the same, He accused the authorities of turning His Father’s house into a market. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”  (John 2:16 ESV). Now, the second time, He accuses them of thievery. They are stealing from the people and from God.“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13 ESV; see Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Jesus acts angry.

Following this scene, Jesus confronts and is confronted by the spiritual leaders of Israel, who are leading the people away from God, not toward Him. Yet, the people come to Him, especially those who need healing. Children cried out, exclaiming over Him.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (Matthew 21:14-17 ESV).

The next day, Jesus again entered the Temple. There is no indication Annas’ Bazaar was still there. Immediately, the chief priest challenged and questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.“The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matthew 21:25 ESV). They refused to answer. “And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV). They were not interested in knowing the truth. All they wanted was political power. “For there is no truth in their mouth” (Psalm 5:9 ESV).

Jesus confronts them and their rebellion using two parables. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46 ESV). Jesus used His stories to convict them of their guilt and wrongdoing.

Jesus’ first parable was of the two sons. A father had two sons. He told them both to work in their vineyard. One son declared he would, but did not. The other son said he would not work, but went and worked. One son claimed obedience but lied. The other son rebelled but then obeyed. The Father is God. The sons are the children of God. 

Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

They said, “The first.” 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.   (Matthew 21:31-32 ESV)

Jesus second parable is of the tenants of a master who built a winepress then traveled to a distant country. The tenants mutinied against him, killing the servants of the master sent to gather the profits of the winepress. The master sent his son, whom they also killed. They believed by killing the son they would then be rid of the master and have full control of the winepress. The Master is God. The tenants are the people of God. The servants are the prophets of God and the son is Jesus.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”  (Matthew 21:40-41 ESV)

Their own words condemn them. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”  (Matthew 21:43 ESV). They will bear their own guilt. They will fall by their own counsel. They rebel and sin against God and He will cast them from His presence.

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

God’s Election of the Saints

To those who are elect exiles (alien immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

People will infuse current meanings into translated words from an an ancient or historical text. A word translated from an ancient language into a modern English equivalent may not carry its true meaning to the readers. The word electis such a word.

Peter uses elect, one of the most misunderstood words in the New Testament, to describe the position of the Christian before God. In modern usage, elect means to select someone for a public office through the process of voting, choosing from multiple candidates. None of the New Testament writers who use the word suggest God has a multiple choice, selecting one over another based upon the individual’s qualifications or popularity. If God’s choice is dependent upon anything done by the person, then none would be chosen. Election is not a political word. The placement of the word is important in the understanding of what it means. In the ESV, the translators have placed the word electjust before the word exiles (alien-immigrant). Other translations have the word elect before the phrase “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Peter is describing the position of those chosen by God.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1Pe 1:1-2 ESV)

Elect means to be picked out or chosen according to God’s eternal criteria, through Jesus Christ. When used about Jesus, it means Messiah, as appointed by God to the highest possible office or position in eternity and over the physical universe. “‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:6-7 ESV). In the same way, those who are chosen are preeminent among all because of their position in Christ, not because of who they are or what they might have done.

Jesus calls those who are His, the elect. They have a special place before God and are protected from the eternal consequences of sin by Him. God cuts short the trauma of the end times because of those He has chosen for Himself. “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22 ESV; see Mark 13:20). They are the ones who, when confronted by the beguilement of the world, are not led astray. “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ESV; see Mark 13:22). Those who are in the world, who stand firm for God and are not led astray, are gathered together by God when He determines His creation is to come to an end. “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31 ESV, see Mark 13:27). God hears and responds to the righteous prayers of the elect. “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”(Luke 18:7 ESV).

In the English translations of the Greek, the word elect is also the word chosen. One of the best-known sayings of Jesus is “for many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14 ESV; see also Matthew 20:16). The word chosen is the word elect. Jesus speaks about those who have been summoned by God. Those who refuse to obey the summons are cast away from Him, while those who responsibly and obediently act upon the summons, are chosen by Him. Though the sinful person is required to obey God, the actions of the sinful person in no way carry merit. People were created for relationship with God. Obedience to His commands is a natural action of their being.

Paul often uses the term electreferring to Christians. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 ESV). Those who are elect are those chosen people who have obeyed the summons of God and not continued in their rebellion against Him. Being chosen is being given those characteristics that God deems valuable in both the temporary world and in eternity. Being chosen is emulating the character and personality of Jesus Christ.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”(Rev 17:14 ESV

Morning Prayer

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3 ESV)

God wants us to listen to Him and talk to Him. Praying to God upon first awakening from sleep is evidence of a person’s devotion to Him and desire to intimately know Him.

Morning is not the only time to pray. Morning is a good time to pray. We should pray always, at all times of the day. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 ESV). There is something about morning and prayer that has captured the discipline of many of the greatest spiritual leaders, beginning with Jesus. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”(Mark 1:35 ESV; see also Luke 4:42). Throughout His ministry Jesus prayed often at all times of the day.

Sleeping in the Psalms may mean resting with eyes closed and moving into the physiological state where one dreams. But it may also mean death. Jesus raised people from the dead and was, Himself, resurrected from death. Sleep is not death but the word is often used for someone who has died. Death is an enemy for the living in this world because it symbolizes God judgment. But sleep is a time of peace and rest that shows God’s pleasure and protection. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 ESV). Jesus was not afraid of His enemies during His ministry, nor of death and dying, for He controls death, it does not control Him.

Morning is used twice in this verse. Morning is the time to direct special attention to God. The ESV adds the word “sacrifice” to this verse, and sacrifice may be implied. Prepare means to direct, to arrange, order, furnish, as in to prepare a sacrifice or a meal or some other special experience. Watch means to keep close look out, to spy, observe or watch closely. The Psalmist suggests he has an anticipation of something important happening during his morning prayer. Praying in the morning prepares him for the meeting with God, insuring all is in order and ready for him to receive what God is giving. Our morning sacrifice is ourselves to His purpose and will.

Dreams and visions are times when God speaks to people about themselves and their relationship with Him. God spoke to Joseph about Mary, his future wife, in a dream (see Matthew 1:18-25) telling him to marry her even though she was pregnant with Jesus. After Jesus’ birth, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream, telling him to take his family to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod the Great (see Matthew 2:13-15). In Scripture dreams have special meanings. However, outside of Scripture, dreams are often misinterpreted, giving the dreamer an excuse to act on a superstitious belief. Nostradamus dreamed and led many people astray. Other times dreams will frighten and keep a person from acting. Sometimes God speaks to people in their dreams. Most often dreams reveal the innermost thinking of our hearts, often suppressed because of pain and discomfort. That which we long for may be revealed in dreams. Often, we dream and immediately forget our dreams upon waking.

Praying in the morning becomes a way to prepare for the day after a night of rest and dreaming deeply. Intimacy with God begins from the moment we awake. Or, a lack of intimacy is shown by removing thoughts of God from our hearts and minds from the moment we awake because of the “great” things we must face or accomplish. Praying in the morning becomes a discipline of obedience and love for God.

Jesus charges those who are His to stand ready for His return at a moment, driving home His instructions with several parables about those who lost because they were not prepared and ready for the return of their Master. He is speaking about His second coming “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV) and “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13 ESV). Jesus characterizes His coming as a thief in the night. “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15 ESV).

Discipline involves every thought and action. We are at war with sin, our own flesh and Satan and the world. Each of these enemies would storm our lives and enslave us, dragging us away from God. God’s Spirit in us, and the Word of God, gives us the tools we need to fight this war. It is a war fought in the heavens while the battlefield is within each person. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” ( Genesis 6:5 ESV). Jesus does not fix the old heart, the dead person. He makes a new person with a new heart that hungers and thirsts for Him and His righteousness, driving the recreated person to intimacy with Him. We are left in this world for two reasons. First, we are witnesses to the grace and truth of God before the world. Secondly, God is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our preparation begins at the moment of salvation and continues in eternity.

Prayer

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. (Psalm 5:1-2 ESV)

Everyone asks God for something, at some time during their life. Most of these requests are for comfort, to make life easier, to fulfill some want, to remove some obstacle. How many people want God to peer into their deepest thoughts and emotions, to uncover and lay bare and expose the wounds caused by sin? No one wants such exposure.

Asking for God to hear the thinking of the heart in prayer is a major theme in the Psalms. Many Psalms are prayers, seeking God’s direction or forgiveness, the writer pouring out his heart before the LORD. This Psalm, like Psalm 4, seeks God’s attention at the beginning. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Or Psalm 3, where he knows he is surrounded by enemies. “O LORD, how many are my foes” (Psalm 3:1 ESV). While many of King David’s circumstances fit these descriptions, he prophesied the feeling and thinking of Messiah, coming in flesh.

Spoken to God in the first person, Jesus laments the sin of His adversaries compared to His devotion to God. Groaning means to murmur or whisper. The Authorized Version translates the word groaning as “meditation.” Cry means to shout. The Psalmist is requesting God listen to His supplications when He whispers them or when He shouts. Jesus, even knowing God always hears, asks God to pay special attention to His whispered prayer thoughts and shouted frustrations.

Did Jesus ever shout? He was angry on a number of occasions. But, the Gospels give no indication, other than the anger of His actions and words, that He ever shouted. We view Jesus as cool and collected, never losing control, even in His anger. There are two instances in Scripture where Jesus confronted sin with violence. Jesus violently drove people away from the temple courts, once at the beginning and once at the end of His ministry, before His crucifixion.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (Psalm 2:13-16 ESV)

Jesus viewed the temple as the house of God, His Father’s house, and a place of prayer. When He travelled to Jerusalem He always taught and prayed in the temple. Temple means a sacred place. In this case it is the designated place where God dwells and where His people can come to worship Him.

Before he was given the plans for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, Moses would pitch this tent outside of the camp. People would come to this place to seek the LORD. Moses would enter the tent and God would descend in a cloud and the LORD would speak to him. They worshipped as God spoke to Moses. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11 ESV; see Exodus 33:7-11).

God wanted His people to build Him a sanctuary so He might live among His people. “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8 ESV). Instead of being outside of the camp God’s tent was built and stayed in the middle of the camp, surrounded by the twelve tribes of His people.

David wanted to build a permanent Temple in the middle of Jerusalem but was restrained by God. David had killed too many people, so God declared his son Solomon, a man of peace, would build the house of worship.

“You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:8-10 ESV).

Though Solomon was the son of David who built the house of the Lord, it is Jesus, the Son of David, who builds the eternal House of the Lord. Solomon used physical stones. Jesus uses living stones to build His house. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV). Neither Jesus nor God tolerates sin in their eternal presence.

This temple Jesus cleansed was not just God’s house, the house of His Father. It was His house, a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God listens to His Son because He is sinless, the blessed righteous Man in whom are all who are His declared righteous. His Body and His Church is pure and is becoming pure and will for eternity, be pure.

 

Peter’s Denial of Christ

Studies in First Peter

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

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (see also Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

It is the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus knows what will happen in a few hours, having foreseen His coming trial, execution and resurrection. For this reason He came as a man. He and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Passover is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God instituted the Passover as an annual celebration, so the Jews would remember when He brought their nation out of Egypt. God instructed the Jews to eat the first Passover meal before the last plague to strike the nation of Egypt and before Pharaoh before released the Jewish people. When the Angel of death passed over the land, He struck down the first born of all who had not covered the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 ESV)

God knew what He was going to do from creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and systematically told His people and the world the events that would accomplish His redemption of those who are His. Passover is an annual reminder that God has redeemed those who are His by the blood of His Son. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples before He became the sacrificed Passover lamb whose blood covers those redeemed by God.

During the meal Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of his relationship with Him. Jesus used Peter’s given name twice. Then He tells us something we could never know had He not divulged the facts. Satan had demanded from God that it might tempt Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”  (Luke 22:31 ESV). Demanded means to be given over for torture or punishment. Satan is concentrating its strength on the leader of the disciples in an attempt to destroy the continuity Jesus had built into the group over the years of His ministry. Like Job, Satan wanted to tempt and try Peter to see if his faith was real or a fabrication. Like Job, God gave permission for Satan to do its work (see Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10).

Jesus does not leave Peter to his own strengths. Faith is a conduit God uses, through which God delivers all the tools needed to live for God in a world that hates God and persecutes Christians. Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Jesus’ prayer is eternally powerful. Though Peter must endure the assaults and attacks of the enemy, through the strength provided by God, he will endure. If Peter had to rely upon his own strength, his failure was assured. Peter received God’s strength in him under God’s control. He would fall because of his sin, but would rise again to work for God because of God’s strength. Knowing this, Jesus gave Peter his marching orders. His purpose was to strengthen your brothers, all those who follow Christ and must endure the assaults of the Deceiver.

In Peter’s mind and heart there was no possibility of him rejecting Jesus. Peter made a brash statement, boasting of something he would soon regret.  This is a characteristic of very person who tries to live for Christ using their own human strength and wisdom. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33 ESV). Peter declared he was ready to die for Christ. He heard Jesus tell them they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. Having followed Jesus this far, he was convinced of his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, allows for temporary failure to build eternal success. Jesus knows what will actually happen because He is God and knows all things. “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34 ESV). Roosters do not just crow as day is breaking but while it is still dark in the early morning hours. Peter, adamantly convinced he would never forsake Jesus, denied he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, while it was still dark.

This prediction must have devastated Peter’s sensibilities. He could easily have been angry and hurt by what Jesus told him. In his mind and heart, he would do what he said he would do. When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:10-11 ESV). Peter was rebuked by Jesus, even after being told to bring a sword, because he used the sword. His discouragement and confusion must have been great.

But Peter had already heard Jesus’ words. He may not have remembered them until later. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). God used his failings to prepare him for greater service.