Wed, Apr 22nd - 10:12PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"Then they took Him, and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked at him, and said, This man was also with Him. And Peter denied Him, saying, Woman, I do not know Him. And after a little while another saw him, and said, You are also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow was also with Him: for he is Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I do not know what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned, and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, Before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly (22:54-62)."
What are the two main causes of Peter's denial? Scripture reveals to us that it was the fact that he followed "afar off." and that he "sat down among " the unbelieving crowd. These are two reasons that too many people today end up denying Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Following Jesus afar off means to not be walking close by Him, not standing and being identified with Him. Too remain "afar off" means to not be focusing on Christ. Mind and life are not fixed upon the Lord. Commitment is weak; therefore the person is easily distracted by the world, easily stricken with fear of ridicule, embarrassment, abuse, persecution, being cut off, shunned, ignored, and ostracized from the community. Sitting down among the crowd of unbelievers means to choose to hide among those who reject Christ. It represents a fear of standing out, of being recognized as "different" from the crowd. Like Peter, we need to find a place to be alone with God in prayer, seeking answers and understanding from God's Holy Spirit. Or, he ought to have gone to be with the other apostles, leading them to seek the face of God for understanding and direction.
We also are confronted here with the "denial of pretension" or pretending to not know Jesus. When directly confronted, this denial says, "I have nothing to do with Christ." We see what happened to Peter. A young woman looked earnestly at him, stared at him, observed him closely, trying to grasp why he looked so familiar to her. She had seen him with Jesus. She states that "this man was with Him as well." What was so threatening in this statement? Peter might have had to put up with some ridicule and ribbing, called a poor fool. Peter definitely had an opportunity here to be a witness for Jesus and the gospel message. Peter might have been able to help turn some of the mob's focus away from Jesus. See, John was there as well. As far as we know from Scripture John maintained his composure and testimony for Jesus, even though he was the younger of the two men. Peter cracked under the sudden turn in circumstances surrounding him and the other disciples. We are being taught here about how weak belief gives in to fear of the crowd. When in church they readily profess Christ, but out in the world, or at work or at school, they fear being visibly known as believers in Christ. They pretend to not know Christ in order to blend into the crowd.
We can also see clearly the denial of discipleship, denying that one is a follower of Jesus. When directly confronted, this denial is more emphatic and vocal. The accusation, "You are one of them" was true. Peter was with Jesus and was in fact one of the leaders of the apostles. Back in Matthew 16:16 he had professed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. He was the one who had sworn loyalty to Jesus, even if it meant death (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter had acted in the flesh by cutting off the ear of Malchus in the garden, he now acted in the flesh by fleeing the side of Christ for he had not accepted and believed the words of Christ for what they said.
We can see clearly that Peter was lying. He attempted to claim ignorance of Christ. In Matthew and Mark's accounts they say Peter began to curse. Peter being a Galilean was going to be hard-pressed to deny not knowing Christ Jesus at all. Part of Peter's problem was that he was trying to escape exposure, rather than surrendering to the truth in Christ's words and standing firm by Christ's side. Peter must have felt that if he denied Jesus enough times he would escape persecution.
Finally, we see Peter remembering Christ's words after locking eyes with Jesus out in the hall. That point of contact was enough to trigger Peter's memory, and the realization of how he had just failed his Lord. I am sure that in the midst of all of His pain and suffering, Christ's look told Peter that He had not forgotten nor forsaken Peter. Christ still loved and cared for him, wanting Peter's faith to not utterly fail in the face of the Adversary. But we get to read how Peter finally went out of the crowd of unbelievers, weeping bitterly. Finally he was entering a "place" where he could begin to repent his sin. He was broken, full of anguish and pain, expressing Godly sorrow.
Do you and I see ourselves in Peter? Have we been in that place? Have we lived any part of our life such that we denied knowing Christ when confronted by unbelievers? Are we able to handle face-to-face contention over our faith in Jesus? When confronted about our faith in Jesus, do we strike out physically or verbally? Or do we meekly and humbly express our faith to others who mock us? Do we respond in our flesh, or do we respond the way Jesus wants us to? Difficult questions. But they need to be asked and answered honestly.
Next time I will write about the next ten verses and the attitude of religion and the world towards Christ Jesus. May the grace and peace of Christ fill you this day, and in the days to come!
Mon, Apr 13th - 9:43PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And while He still spoke, behold a multitude, and He that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, Judas, you betray the Son of man with a kiss? When they which were about Him saw what would follow, they said to Him, Lord, shall we strike with the sword? And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, You suffer this far. And He touched his ear, and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to Him, Have you come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, you did not stretch out any hands against Me; but this is your hour, and the power of darkness (22:47-53)."
Judas Iscariot's desertion and apostasy are what everyone focuses upon in this passage. Believers need to see and understand three things here: 1) Judas was a professing disciple, part of the inner circle of believers, a man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He was the person in charge of the disciples' finances. He had been with Christ Jesus and the disciples for over two years. On this evening in question, Judas had a few hours earlier been eating and fellowshipping with the Lord and His disciples. 2) Judas was a leader of sinners, leading the world in its opposition to Jesus. Judas chose the "world" over Jesus Christ---money, position, recognition, and rebellion. The crowd which Judas led is identified by Matthew and Mark as being arresting officers or temple guards from the Sanhedrin, not just Roman soldiers. John says they included Roman soldiers. Matthew and Mark say that they came armed. The Roman soldiers naturally were armed with their swords; the elders and other officials of the High Priest had armed themselves with staves. 3) Judas had a deceptive commitment to Christ. It was nighttime, darkness was over everything making it difficult to identify individuals. How would the temple guards prevent Jesus from slipping away in the dark? How would they identify Him? Judas was the one who came up with the idea of kissing Jesus in greeting. A kiss was a sign of friendship and commitment among people in the East, in particular among friends. Judas felt this would deceive the other disciples; they would never suspect his true intentions, and it would clearly identify for the temple guards who Jesus was.
Jesus clearly knew how Judas was going to betray Him to the temple guards. Jesus forced Judas to stop and think, to search his deceptive heart. It was a last attempt to reach Judas. So, how many people today profess Christ, but do not really know Christ nor do they live for Christ? How many of us are deceivers just as Judas was: trying to make others think we are followers of Jesus when we are actually living for ourselves? How many of us began to follow Jesus, but are now falling back into sin just as Judas did?
Next we must deal with the disciples' misunderstanding and ignoring of the Lord's will, their carnal sin. They misunderstood the Lord's will and the spiritual nature of His kingdom. They were just a hairs' breadth away from being ready to war in the flesh. The disciple referred to in verse 50 is none other than Peter, and the servant whose ear was chopped off was Malchus (John 18:10). Jesus miraculously restored the ear. I can't possibly imagine what the impact of that feat had upon Malchus. Was he a changed man after his ear was cut off and then healed? I would think so. Peter obviously jumped to the conclusion that Jesus' hour to act had finally come. Jesus was now ready to free Israel and establish the throne of David as the dominant nation in the entire world. What happened though? Jesus rebuked the disciples; their carnal commitment, their warring in the flesh. Jesus told Peter to put his sword back into its sheath where it belonged (Matthew 26:52).
The disciples were acting in the flesh. In this they failed, and eventually they deserted Jesus. Doing things in the power of our flesh will always result in failing and deserting Christ Jesus. How are their mistakes seen in us today? The disciples misunderstood God's Word. They assumed Jesus was come to establish an earthly kingdom. They thought in terms of the physical, the material. They failed to grasp the spiritual and eternal kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. They never totally accepted God's Word. Jesus had predicted His death and forewarned the disciples, giving them extensive training for months. Still they refused to give up their pre-conceived ideas and accept what Jesus was saying as the truth. They remained far away from obtaining the eternal salvation and eternal world of the Spirit of God. How about us? Where do we stand in accepting God's Word as being the truth? Do we doubt? Do we cast aside those things "which obviously can not be true"? The disciples did not wait for instructions from Jesus in the garden. They impulsively acted on their own, took matters into their own hands. Oh, they asked the question of striking with the sword. But did they wait for an answer? Aren't we the same way today? Too impatient. Too impulsive. Too reliant upon our own power and ability to deal with physical things around us. Just as the disciples did not wait upon God to learn what to do, today we fail far too often to even ask God what we ought to do. Obviously the disciples did not think clearly nor act wisely. It could have easily led to the death of very many people. Jesus stated that violence leads to more violence. Among God's people, the place for the sword is in the sheath, not drawn and slashing at perceived enemies. God's people are to proclaim love and mercy and peace, not war and violence, not carnal and fleshly behavior.
Then there is the continued blindness of the religious rulers to the Son of God. They refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Why treat Him as a thief? What was He stealing from them? Yes, He preached a message that did not allow them to live as they wished; He did not praise them, boost their egos, honor their service and gifts. Jesus did tell them that they were short-sighted and sinful, dying and doomed if they did not repent and begin to live as God said in the Scriptures. Please notice this point: Jesus had to tell the truth in order for people to be saved. God is love, but His love is not indulgent in accepting wrongdoing. His is the love of acceptance of repentance and obedience. As Scripture repeatedly states, only through repentance and obedience can a person ever know the love of God.
Finally, we observe how Satan is involved. Joining the power of darkness. Jesus stated it rather bluntly, saying that this was their hour, and the power of darkness. What they sought to do they did not dare attempt during the light of day when prying eyes could easily observe their actions. The power of darkness refers to the forces of evil and wickedness, to Satan himself. What we all must take away from this part of the passage is that an "hour" is a short period of time. It comes, and it goes. Therefore, the power of darkness and those who oppose God will last but a short time. Their time will pass and not last forever. The power of darkness is always broken and conquered by Light. When light appears, the presence and power of darkness are destroyed, driven away. This is how it is with God's Son, the Light of the world. Those who have opposed Christ have had their hour of darkness, but their hour is coming to an end. Christ, the Light of the world, will arise and dispel all darkness, and completely eliminate its presence. After the power of darkness' hour passes we will be left with all of eternity to bask in the light of Christ. Are you preparing yourself for that time? Will you be spiritually ready when Christ returns to call you home forever? Or will He be forced to tell you, "Be gone! I never knew you at all!"
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