April 3 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 22)

Submitted by Joanna K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church 

  • Followed at a distance; sat down with them

Not too long ago Peter expressed his devotion to Jesus and said that he would follow him even to death.  In the garden, Peter was probably also the one that defended Jesus by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. However, the Peter we see here is very different than the Peter who professed his devotion for Jesus only several hours before.  What was different was that Peter saw Jesus being seized and led away helplessly into the house of the high priest.  Peter probably was confused and was disillusioned about who Jesus was and what he came to accomplish.  So, Peter did not follow Jesus so confidently or openly as before, but at a distance.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted such close association with Jesus anymore.  Before Jesus was popular, the crowds followed him, healed the sick, and miraculously fed the 5,000 and then later the 4,000.  Now, following Jesus had a high cost.  To follow Jesus was to be on the losing side and would mean to also risk being seized and helplessly led away.  So Peter could not afford to follow Jesus so closely because he wanted to preserve his own life.

It is also telling that not only did Peter follow at a distance, but he sat down and joined the crowd that gathered around the high priest’s courtyard.  What were these people there for?  They were interested enough to gather around the courtyard to see what was going to happen to Jesus.  They weren’t the ones interrogating or beating Jesus inside, but they were spectators and were involved but at a careful distance.  This is what Peter wanted for himself as well.  He wanted to see what would happen.  Maybe he was hoping that Jesus would reveal his power and miraculously get himself out of this situation.  But nonetheless, Peter just wanted to observe.  He was not going to get involved, he was not going to risk his neck, or stand up for Jesus.  He just wanted to be part of the crowd at a careful distance and see how the situation would turn out.  Again, this is a far cry from Peter only a few hours ago who thought he was ready to go to death for Jesus.  When the costs of following Jesus actually came, he soon realized that his commitments were much weaker than he thought.

I can relate to Peter in that I find myself having to choose whether to follow Jesus fully or at a distance when I experience the costs of discipleship at different junctures in my life.  I remember when I first graduated from college and joined ministry because I experienced the costs of following Jesus in ways I never did before.  It was relatively easy to be a college student, live near campus, and reach out to other college students.  However, after getting a job and working 8 hours a day being involved in ministry was a lot harder.  I found myself just more physically tired, and wanting to go home and rest after a long day of work rather than driving out to Berkeley to meet up with a student only to be stood up or rushing home to cook a meal for students I invited over for dinner.  I chose to focus on my feelings of tiredness.  I looked for little pockets of rest where I could just unwind physically and emotionally and escape from the difficulties of ministry.  As a result, I chose to distance myself from following Jesus more and more.

Right now in my life I am facing another challenge or another junction in my life where I can choose to either renew my commitment to follow Jesus or follow Jesus at a distance.  Currently, I am 3 months away from having my second son and I can easily see all the little justifications I can tell myself to allow a little distance between Jesus and me.  I forsee how I can be preoccupied with my children.  I am not looking forward to the first couple months of sleepless nights, tending to the newborn child, and pushing through physical fatigue.  I also forsee the heavy responsibility of just coordinating with my husband the family life of 2 kids, thinking of their welfare, their development, and their education, which seems to overwhelm the average American family.  On top of that, I am at a point in my life where I have growing ministry responsibilities at church.  Not only do I have the burden of taking care of my own children, but caring for the many students who have been entrusted to me.  This means mentally, physically and emotionally pushing myself to care for others outside my nuclear family.

I definitely see the temptation of just using the excuse of my expanding family to pull back a little in zeal for ministry or in sacrificing my body, time, energy, and money to love others.  It’s not like I can ever see myself quitting ministry, but like Peter, I would still follow, but at a distance.  My passionate commitment to follow Christ I made as a college student to burn up with others for the sake of the gospel would soon seem so far away and foolish.  I would allow different comforts to creep in and allow my family life to slowly consume all of my thoughts and energy and in the end there would be no room left for others.

Playing it out like this seems not so shocking and is actually very commonplace in many Christians’ lives.  However, in the context of this passage such a distancing from Jesus is equivalent to Peter’s betrayal and cowardice of distancing himself from Jesus at Jesus’ greatest hour of need.  Also, I need to see that such a distancing does not just stop there.  Soon after Peter followed Jesus at a distance and sat down with others in the crowd, he actually ended up outright denying Jesus three times and completely cutting off ties with Jesus and reneging on his earlier vows.  Later, Peter is exposed as a complete coward and a betrayer.  Distancing myself from Jesus even a little bit will lead to the same kind of outright denial that Peter ended up doing if it is not dealt with.

  • Remembered the word

It seems like Peter was oblivious to the fact that he was fulfilling Jesus’ earlier words predicting that he would deny him three times.  I wonder what Peter was thinking especially right before the third denial.  He already denied Jesus twice, and a whole hour passed by before he denied Jesus that final time.  When Peter was faced with people’s accusations of knowing Jesus, perhaps Peter was full of his own justifications.  Maybe he thought, “How could I say I knew Jesus? I would probably be chained up and then I could be of no help to Jesus or anyone else.” Perhaps Peter was filled with fears of what would happen to his life if he did go out on a limb and say that he knew Jesus.  In any case, Peter was brought back to his senses and clear thinking only after he denied Jesus the third time, heard the rooster crow, and “remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him.”

When I think back to times I was brought back to my senses about the big truths about who I am and who is God, it was through the word of God. I can vividly remember the time right after graduation when I was feeling weary of ministry I was brought back to my commitment to God and was led to repentance through a very specific message on Joshua 7.  In this passage Israel’s sin was exposed after a careful examination of the people, tribe by tribe.  From the message, I was forced to examine myself layer by layer, peel away my excuses and face the ugly truth that I sinned against God by betraying my earlier commitments to follow Jesus and to surrender my whole life to him.  I remember just feeling a jolt when I finally realized that through seeking escape through mindless comforts, I was actually betraying Jesus and sinning against my heavenly Father.  Through that wake up call, I was able to repent before God and renew my commitment to follow Jesus again.

Going to God’s word and allowing it to convict me by showing me a true picture of myself is the only way I am going to be able to feel the proper remorse over how I’ve betrayed God, and to eventually repent.  It’s through the word of God that I am going to be able to keep going in Christian life and just relate to God in truth because I see more and more how I can get so lost in my own justifications and lose that sense that I am a sinner, and that my greatest need is forgiveness from God.  I can easily fool myself that following Jesus at a distance, indulging in some comfort, seeking escape through my family or my children is not so bad. It’s only through the word of God that exposes me for who I really am and brings me back to God.  This is why it is so important to be faithful to DT’s, to reflect on the messages that I receive from week to week, and to come to the word of God in honesty.  If Peter did not remember the word of God, maybe he would be forever lost in his own thoughts and justifications and would never have become the Apostle that he later became. I see through this text how crucial it is allow myself to be convicted of the word of God.  Painful as it may be, it’s the only way to honestly relate to God and experience reconciliation with God.

  • Wept bitterly  

Peter’s response to his sin is the best model of what true repentance should look like. The more I live Christian life and engaged in ministry, the more amazed I am with Peter’s response. Upon realizing that Jesus knew all along that he was a betrayer, and having all notions that he was a person of commitment shattered, he just saw that he was helpless before his sin and was powerless to do anything except to weep bitterly.  What I find myself and see other people often doing is to feel self-pity and weep over the fact that we didn’t meet our own standards of goodness.  I often beat myself up, and just go over again and again in my own mind why I did this instead of that.  However, this is such a self-centered and unrelational way of dealing with my sin. When I do this, it’s all about me, and how I failed.  When I go on this downward spiral of self-flagellation, I ignore the party that was chiefly hurt, which is God.

Peter was forced to see the painful relational hurt that he caused because after he denied Jesus the third time Jesus looked straight at him and they locked eyes.  For Peter, that relational connection that he betrayed Jesus was so clear that all he could do was weep.  It’s like an adulterous husband who sees the hurt on the face of his wife.  A proper response is to not do anything except to feel very, very rotten, which is captured by Peter weeping bitterly.  Often times I can avoid really being broken by my sin by thinking that my sin doesn’t really affect anyone except myself.  This text shows me that in every sin that I commit I am not doing it in a vacuum.  There is a party offended, and that party is God who is the one who created me, the one who sustains my life, and the one who died for me.  When I follow Jesus at a distance and turn to the idols of comfort or family, I need to see that I am essentially doing what Peter did.  I’m not just lame because I failed my own standard of what a good Christian should be, but I am betraying Jesus, the one who died for me.  This truth, if I allow it to sink in, can lead me to weep bitterly like Peter did and properly repent before God.

Submitted by Angell S. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Luke 22:54-62

  • Peter cared about Jesus enough to follow him, yet he “followed at a distance” and was found to be sitting “together” near a kindled fire.  What do these facts reveal about Peter’s state of mind?  How is this reflective of my life?

I think from this picture, we can see that Peter was conflicted and still very much into self-preservation. On the one hand, he wanted to follow Jesus and to be there with him. In fact in Luke 22:33, he declares to Jesus that he is ready to go with him to prison and death. But now he was faced with reality as he saw Jesus being arrested, seized and dragged into the house of the high priest. This reality was a lot more unpleasant than he had thought. He hadn’t bargained on Jesus being arrested so suddenly. After all of Jesus’ miracles, he expected him to put up more of a fight and to show his power rather than so meekly submitting to the soldiers. Before, people flocked to Jesus but now everyone was opposing him. Even though Peter had said he would follow Jesus, now that it was time to do so, the costs seemed too much. Rather than following Jesus all the way, he chose to distance himself so that when it got tough he could choose to back off. In doing so, Peter found himself sitting down by a fire which was such a stark contrast to what Jesus was going through – Jesus being alone, isolated, led away versus Peter in the midst of others huddled near a fire to stay warm.

It’s easy to say that Peter was cowardly and should have remained true to his promise. But I see Peter’s actions as very reflective of how I live. I have made the commitment to follow God and the moment I declared Him Lord of my life, I made the promise to take up my cross and follow Him no matter where He led. And yet when I look back at my Christian life, I see so many times where obedience to God meant suffering and I started to hedge on my promise. When God called me to be sacrificial in my giving, I say ok but only to a certain extent.  When God impresses on me to put aside my own agendas and all that I need to get done in order to minister to someone or help them in their time of need, sometimes I find myself pushing back and telling Him that I’ll finish what I need to first and then give what I have leftover. Or I may go but not give my full attention and heart. Is this obedience? In a way I am following what God tells me. But it’s only to the extent to which it is comfortable or what I can handle. I approach obedience at a distance so that I can back off when things get too tough to handle. Ultimately it’s about self-preservation because my mentality is, how can I obey but also make sure my needs are met/be able to back away when obedience means too much?

  • What was Peter’s response when the servant girl and others recognized him as one of Jesus’ followers?  Are there some parallels between Peter’s denial of being associated with Jesus and the way I live? 

Peter immediately denied that he was with Jesus or that he even knew him. Why did Peter feel driven to deny Jesus? Because to do so would keep him safe from persecution and not having to endure the same trials as Jesus. If he said that he was an apostle, there was a good chance that they would drag him into the house of the high priest and accuse him as a criminal as well. In his mind, to betray Jesus was at least better than having to suffer himself. Although I might not outright deny Jesus in my words, I do find myself at times denying Jesus’ claim on my life so that I do not have to face the full consequences of a Jesus-centered life. When following Jesus means sacrificing the time/energy I had saved up for myself, I have to struggle with obeying versus dismissing Jesus’ words as “too much”. When following God starts to become inconvenient for my career, there’s a temptation to deny Jesus’ claim on that part of my life.

  • Vv. 56-61: Jesus already knew that Peter would deny him, and yet his prayer for Peter was to turn back from his failure and strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32).  Given that this was Jesus’ prayer for Peter, what might have been in the heart of Jesus as he “turned and looked straight” at Peter?

Luke is very descriptive in this part of the narrative and it almost seems like time stands still. Peter was in the midst of defending himself against this person for the third time. In fact he was almost indignant saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” At that very instant as he was still speaking, the rooster crowed and Jesus turned and looked STRAIGHT at Peter. I wonder with what kind of eyes and heart Jesus must have looked with. I know it is not with eyes of accusation/condemnation because Jesus already knew that Peter was going to betray him. I think his gaze had a mixture of emotions. Maybe some hurt at the fact that Peter had betrayed him and a little bit of pity, but mostly filled with love, mercy and hope. Jesus saw this as an opportunity for Peter to fully repent and be restored. No longer could he rely on his own power or words – here he was stripped to the core and clearly revealed about how much of a sinner he was. All he could do was to humbly rely on Jesus’ mercy and grace for him. And that’s exactly what Jesus wanted for him.

Thinking about Jesus’ heart for Peter, I see it as similar to a father-son relationship like in the Prodigal Son. The father knows that when the son goes and spends his money on all the frivolous things of this world, he will turn up empty. I can see the father pleading and warning the son but ultimately letting him go as he was so set on doing what he wanted. When the son returns broken and empty-handed, the father does not accuse or condemn. He does not say, “I told you so.”  Instead, he accepts with open arms, comforts and restores. That’s the same kind of heart with which Jesus looks at Peter knowing full well that he failed just as he had foretold but now wanting him to turn back to receive forgiveness and grow to be a strength for others.

  • What did Peter remember, and how did this lead him to repent?  What implication does this have about the role of God’s word in my life?

When Jesus looked straight at Peter, I’m sure their whole exchange in Luke 22 came flying back into Peter’s head. He remembered how Jesus predicted his death, how Jesus predicted that he would betray him three times before the rooster crowed, and how Jesus was praying for Peter that his faith might not fail. He remembered how he had been so defensive and saying that he would follow Jesus no matter what. At that time he had been so full of himself and confident that if anyone would be the greatest and the last man standing, it would be him. But now as the rooster crowed on the heels of his three-fold denial and as he stared at the face of the one whom he had sworn to follow but so spectacularly betrayed, Peter caught a glimpse of who he really was. He was a person more concerned with his own self-protection than others. He was one who could so easily throw under the bus one he claimed to love for his own self-preservation. Jesus’ words about him were spot on. He was this twisted and sinful. This realization led him to weep bitterly at who he was.

And yet it was also Jesus’ words that led him to not just run away in shame and leave forever. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him yet did not reject him. In fact, his hope and prayer was that Peter’s faith would not fail but that he would turn back and strengthen his brothers. As Peter remembered those words, he would have realized that Jesus wanted him to repent and return. As much as he failed, Jesus still loved him and wanted to restore him.

In my life, God’s Word has played a similar role. I can remember times when I had gone astray living a life that was not pleasing to Him. Through His Word spoken to me through the messages and daily devotion passages, I was confronted with a true picture of myself. I saw that I was not the righteous or trustworthy person that I had purported myself to be. In fact, I was sinful, self-preserving, and selfish. I had no care for others. In those times, I experienced a very Peter-like moment. I could see God’s gaze upon my life and it became very clear that I was so broken. I had nowhere to hide, no excuse to make. All I could do was to break down and weep bitterly because I had betrayed God, others and hurt so many people. Yet God’s Word also helped to restore me. I recalled passages like Peter’s reinstatement (John 21), Psalm 103 where God is compassionate and gracious and does not treat me as my sins deserve, Psalm 32 where God forgives the guilt of my sin, as well as the core gospel message of the cross and how God died for me so that my sins could be completely cleansed. This became a truth I clung onto in my despair and I was able to experience forgiveness of my sin and be drawn back to Him. God’s Word has the power to expose my sin and acts as a mirror to show me who I really am, but it also carries the word of life that give me hope and the message of forgiveness.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response