THE AUSTRALIAN PRESBYTERIAN BIBLE CHURCH - April 30, 2006
CLOSENESS TO THE CHRIST OF THE CROSS IS NO MERE SYMBOL -
"Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the High Priest's House.
But Peter followed at a distance."
People often do this: they are interested in Christ, they are drawn to Him, but not born through Him, and not for a few hours, as with erring Peter, but for unredeemed years they are, at a distance ... They lurch after Him, but then cease; they regret their distance and draw near, and then find the cost too high; they hanker to be nearer, but then other things intervene. It must be clearly realised once and for all, that if anything is GIVEN in your life, your life insurance, your superannuation, your house or your friends, and these CANNOT be negotiated, for they are a fixed thing in your life, then you are not ready to be a disciple of Jesus. You must, as He explicitly stated, give up all. If there is a consideration which limits Him, then HE is not your Lord. It could not be otherwise: if you cannot give Him your heart, whose is it ? It is certainly not His!
Let us see how this phenomenon worked with Peter, in his temporary lapse.
HOW GREAT THE DISTANCE!
First baulked from his natural reaction, to protect Christ from the soldiers, who led by the betrayer, come to arrest Him, and so unable to use force, to wield the sword to swipe and cut, Peter appeared nonplussed. What should he do ? He followed at a distance. It was quite an eloquent distance, in the case.
He had used the sword, but was instructed to do so no longer. If only many using Christís name had followed the blessed example of Peter; but even calling on Peter, they murdered masses, torturing.
But what next ? While Christ went to stand before the judges, Peter sat before the fire.
While Christ went to stand before the judges, Peter sat before the fire.
Christ was harshly interrogated, but Peter swore the more to ensure that no connection was to be made between himself, and the stricken Lord.
While Christ told the truth, Peter lied till blue in the face.
Before the Sanhedrin trial, Christ was blindfolded, mocked, stricken on the face (Micah 5:1 in this being at once fulfilled).
On His way to this, Christ looked on Peter. At once, the rooster crowed, as foretold by Christ, whose every anguish was anticipated, since His sacrificial role had been declared for a millenium, planned from the foundation of the world.
Now things changed! In the meantime, how great was the distance, how secure the comfort for the straying apostle, how great the contrast between his life and that of Christ, how far was he from making any kind of testimony, showing any solidarity, with Christ... How many do just the same, so that when the crisis or the opportunity comes, the one is avoided, the other abandoned! As well ask an orange tree in its sweetness, to bear lemons, as ask a Christian to LIVE like that. What for Peter was over in some hours, many try to have over years, masquerading as Christians, wasting their time.
HOW CLOSE WAS PETER'S COMING ?
When Peter received that look of truth, from the face of Jesus Christ, immediately all subterfuge seemed ridiculous, all pompous pretension, self-serving escape came into sight in its drab colours. He wept bitterly. He had meant to be heroic, to protect Christ, but when it came to meekly being grasped by foolish men, to be taunted and tortured, as was the role of Christ, Peter could at first see nothing in it. (We met that reaction in Matthew 16:22-23, where he was rebuked.) Only when his love for Christ was awakened by that look, did the reality of things come to him with such force, that it was like one of the tornadoes in the mid-USA, where there little torments, rolled up and spinning, devastate all before them. Then he wept bitterly.
Did I INDEED do this ? Was I not warned ? Did the Lord not tell me, and was I so remiss ? Have I been living in the flesh ? Does the earth need more like that ? Oh God, forgive, O Lord Jesus pardon and enable a different way from this day. Such may have been, and in spirit presumably was the self-abasement of Peter. Yet the Lord looks on the man who is of a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:2), and so Peter drew NEAR to the Lord, following this wayward escapade.
HOW CLOSE TO THE CROSS DID PETER REACH ?
Do YOU follow at a distance ? are there self-serving episodes in your life which you do not care to abandon ? are there chained prisoners in your conscience, never allowed to see the light of day, where you keep them, lest they escape and make life rough for you ? Remember, if there be anything such in your life, to open wide the gates, and have sin acknowledged and confessed, the remedy applied and righteousness to rule (cf. I John 1:7ff.). You CONFESS, but at the same time ASK to be cleansed from ALL unrighteousness. There are no exceptions, no exemptions.
Peter, thus REPENTED (as in Luke 13:1-3, you cannot draw near to God without it). This is confirmed by the fact that on that first day of the resurrection, Christ appeared to PETER, mentioned by name in I Corinthians 15:5. Not only so, but later, as in John 21, He recommissioned Peter, but not without the most searching and potent enquiry.
DO YOU love me more than these ? Christ asked him. Did Peter put Christ above all and everyone ?
Peter's reply is fascinating. He said, Yes Lord, you know that I have a friendly affection for you.
Feed my lambs! was the reply from Christ to this modest but clear avowal from Peter.
Again He asked him, and in the same words, with Peter's reply in his own same words.
Christ then asked him, in return, Shepherd My sheep!
The third time, Christ asked Peter, but this time He used Peter's own word - friendship in the enquiry. Peter "was grieved" at this repetition, and declared, Lord, you know everything, you know that I have friendship with You. Jesus then again told him, in generic terms, Feed My sheep!
Christ at once proceeded to instruct Peter on an important fact. So far from being cheap and simple about it, just as Peter denied Christ three times, so Christ asked Peter three times; and just as Peter escaped the ignominy of the first interrogation procedures when Christ was so abused, so said Christ, must he realise that when older, he would have to give his very life. Now he could go where he wanted; but then, he too, he would be led where he had no wish to go! Such happened. Thus Peter in returning to the Lord, returned not to comfort, but to responsibility, and while there is an amazing innner comfort, strengthening and joy in Christ (I Peter 1:8), yet it is not at all what this world calls comfort. If comfort were to be god, there would be no Peter there! See then that this too is so for you...