What the disciples of Jesus Christ saw beginning that dark morning of His arrest and thereafter, so deeply impacted their lives they were never the same again. Though Peter and traditionally the apostle John as “the other disciple” had initially scattered with their companions, they showed up at the home of “Annas,” “the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year” “to see the end,” (Matthew 26:57-58; John 18:12-16, NKJV). It was at this point that Peter makes the first of three denials of knowing Him as the Lord prophesied “before the rooster crows” which he afterward “bitterly” regrets (Matthew 26:34, 69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:17-18, 25-27, NKJV).
I cannot begin to connect with the depths of Peter’s personal pain at that hour especially the heart rending occurrence of the Lord looking him straight in the face at his third denial. I can however, relate to having failed the Lord many times over the years. It is here that I can also appreciate doctrinally and personally the Lord’s words of encouragement to Peter in the face of his impending failure saying to him: “...I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren,” (Luke 22:31-32,NKJV). Peter’s personal faith in Christ and who He was would and did not fail that day--Peter did in his natural, fallen state as a man!
How eternally unfathomably fortunate Peter was that day and all of us who have believed in Christ since that for the cause of our natural, fallen condition as sinners, sin guilt and sins He surrendered to those that would press for His death so, we can return to Him; that is, repent and be forgiven--oh, the joy of the Lord’s forgiveness for sin (Psalms 30, 32)! Peter in the fallen natural and spiritual ignorance; as a not yet Spirit-filled, born again man in the spiritual know denied knowing or being a follower of his Lord to save himself from certain harm and obtained forgiveness for this sin because his faith (trust, confidence) in Him as God’s Son, the Messiah did not fail as He had prayed.
The forgiveness Peter and the other disciples received for not believing Scripture or Christ’s words and spiritual ignorance is granted to all the lost who repent and believe the Gospel (John 5:45-47; 1 Timothy 1:12-17)! Judas’ betrayal is a unique case (Matthew 26:14-16, 19-25, 27:3-10; John 17:12; Acts 1:15-26). Clearly, the warnings of the Lord and later New Testament writers including Peter about the eternal consequences of denying and falling away from Him speak most directly to disciples coming after His suffering, the Holy Spirit and the new spiritual birth (Matthew 10:32-33, 12:31-32; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 12:8-12; Hebrews 3, 6:4-8, 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:22-23).2
It is important to note that while Peter witnessed the first round of the Lord’s interrogation at and before his departure from the home of Annas, John apparently stayed and followed the events leading to His crucifixion since he was known to Caiaphas. With Sanhedrin members and disciples Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, he would have been close in to observe the Lord’s foretold trials before this Council, Pilate and Herod. All present would have seen His disfigurement in the aftermath of beatings and scourging; his physical weakness on the walk to crucifixion requiring help and during which He prophesied to grieving women (Luke 22:63-23:31, 50-51; John 3:1, 7:45-52).
When the death processional came to Calvary the Lord was nailed to His cross as were two criminals. He spoke to His Father on behalf of those responsible for His suffering as all that unfolded fulfilled prophecy exactly as it is written. He also brought one of the criminals crucified with Him who had repented into the Kingdom. Meanwhile, possibly to mirror the spiritual darkness that already shrouded what was taking place; it became physically dark from noon until His death three hours later as the light of the sun was kept from shining on the scene. While “all His acquaintances” and women disciples from Galilee had watched from a distance, John and His mother drew near His cross where He addressed them, then, His Father again before dying (Luke 23:32-49; John 19:25-30, NKJV).
At the moment of His death with the darkened land also uncontrollably convulsing, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” providing a monumental sign and clue as to why all of this was permitted by God and had to take place; the Roman centurion and his men on the scene guarding the Lord observing how He died and the events attending to His death in fear crying out in unison: ‘“Truly, this was the Son of God,’” (Exodus 26:31-34; Leviticus 16:2-3; Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 27:51-52a, 54, NKJV)! Those who pressed for His death, however, still refused to believe this and sought to ensure His light was put out forever even as fellow Sanhedrin members Joseph and Nicodemus saw to His burial; women followers watching (Matthew 27:57-66; John 19:31-42).
2 Thus, for this cause no professed born again Christian should believe they in unbelief can be forgiven for denying the Lord to save themselves from consequence in per-
secution or apostasy (Romans 14:23b; James 4:17)! Men are free to voluntarily walk away from the Lord in unbelief though, no evil spirit or mortal predator can “snatch”
those clinging to Him by faith out of His or His Father’s protective care (John 6:60-71, 10:22-30, NKJV). Obviously, false professors of the faith that publicly forsake it
and Christ were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:18-19). Salvation then, inures to those professed Christians that stand firm to the end in faith, love and obedience
to God’s written Word (Matthew 10:21-22, 24:13; Mark 13:12-13; Ephesians 5:1-7; Hebrews 10:32-39; Revelation 12:10-11, 14:9-13). Read the two-part post beginning
April 6, 2014, The Faith That Saves, under the category, The Faith.
It was a most powerful moment in the narrative of the Son of God’s mortal journey to that day; a moment of fight, flight or forfeit the first two options for Him and His eleven disciples. Hours earlier He had already forewarned His disciples they would all “be made to stumble (fall away) because of” Him as with Him, they were all about to experience the fulfillment of just over a 500 year-old Bible prophecy He quoted to them (Matthew 26:31-32, NKJV). They heard His words and the prophecy loud and clear. As a result, Peter in the full splendor of his natural manhood and earnest devotion immediately locked in on the possibility he would desert Christ and denied it (Matthew 26:33).
In the face of Peter’s heartfelt, testosterone driven confidence, the Lord gave him his own personal prophecy about what his actions would be. Again, Peter denied any such thing would happen with him (never mind, it was God in the flesh telling him so) and the other disciples asserted the same for themselves also; all missing the Lord’s prophecy of His resurrection in the process (Matthew 26:34-35). It was after His time in prayer alone that the moment of the Lord’s betrayal and arrest came (Luke 22:47-48; John 18:1-9). True to their loyalty, the eleven all seeing what was happening and coming next queried the Lord for His command to draw swords to fight (Luke 22:49).
Perhaps anxious to prove just how deadly serious he had been hours before, Peter sprung into action ahead of any word from the Lord and struck a blow to the head of the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear (Luke 22:50; John 18:10). All four Gospels record this part of the event; three, the response of the Lord Jesus to Peter directly and all of the disciples indirectly which are telling. He commands Peter to put his sword back in its place admonishing “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” (Matthew 26:52; John 18:11, NKJV). Having already proven He alone could have fought weaponless, the Lord further instructs Peter His Father had His back too (Matthew 26:53).
While healing the severed ear of the high priest’s servant, the Lord Jesus also commanded Peter and all of His disciples to “Permit even this” (His arrest and all that would follow) because it was fulfilling God’s foreordained plan written in Scripture (Matthew 26:54; Luke 22:51, NKJV). This truth according to Matthew, He also asserted to those that were arresting Him, Luke adding very importantly for us in this post: “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” “Then,” as He had prophesied to them, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled,” (Matthew 26:55-56; Luke 22:52-53, NKJV); there being no fight and surrender to certain harm completely out of the question.
As the Lord leads, I write this post to the glory of God and for our encouragement in follow up to last week’s sober word from Bible prophecy and current events concerning the intensifying persecution of Christians abroad and at home.1 In that post, I also quoted Luke 22:53 to answer why persecution is intensifying and here to stay until the Lord returns. Truly, as the permitted hour for the world of fallen humanity that included those who were religious, but without God and the kingdom of darkness that governs it came upon our Lord Jesus Christ, so, as He repeatedly warned, it has come and comes upon those of us who faithfully follow Him (Matthew 10:24-25; John 13:16, 15:20).
Indeed, the persecution of Christians is not new. What is different about now, though, is that the widening scope and intensity in the earth is a prophetic sign we have come into the latter weeks of the final spiritual trimester of pregnancy before the manifest birth of God’s Kingdom on earth. This is Satan and the world’s last hooray and they will make the most of it; suffering the birth pains God brings on them in judgment and inflicting the same to the extent they can on Jews and Christians as His elect (Matthew 10:16-23; Revelation 12:7-17). Not what you signed up for when you decided to become a Christian? Then, you did not take the terms Christ plainly lays out for all that will follow Him as a disciple seriously or fear has gripped you (Luke 9:18-26, 57-62, 12:49-53, 14:25-35).
You would not be alone dealing with fear in the face of harm since it is a part of our natural design as human beings. In the natural, Peter and the other disciples fled the scene when they saw that the Lord’s plan was not to fight. In fairness to them, though He had been telling them He was about to suffer at the hands of Israel’s religious leaders and Roman authorities representing the Gentiles, His disciples had not understood why this hour of darkness had to come. His cause at that moment was not yet one for them to die for. But even as they watched His suffering from afar, He was still teaching and modeling for them His way as God’s Son, the Messiah; still shining as the “light of the world” and hope in darkness to those of us who believe on Him (John 8:12, 9:1-5, NKJV).
1 See the November 29, 2020 post, Persecution Of American Christians Intensifying, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
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