Wednesday's Reading: Matthew 26:57-75
Over the last seventeen years at our local gym, God has given me countless opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations with men from all walks of life passing from the locker room to the treadmill. Without fail when meeting men for the first time, the questions I am most often asked are, “So, what do you do?” or “Where do you work?” The questions are both a blessing and an opportunity. I have seen God make the Gospel clear to men as we discuss who Jesus is and why He came to earth. However, I must confess, there are times when I find myself trying to come up with other words rather than “pastor” or “preacher” when answering the question. Maybe counselor, teacher, or even next generation mentor?! My concern is the cultural baggage pastoral labels carry – will people see me as a money grabbing tele-evangelist? Or the finger pointing hell-fire yeller? Or does the idea of “pastor” carry with it bad memories of a church split or moral failure? If I am honest, though, most of the time, I’m just selfish and I’d rather not get into a conversation about Jesus. I cower in the moment. It’s just easier to not go there.
In our devotional passage today we see two men being questioned – Jesus and Peter. While Jesus is being interrogated in a religious trial before the high priest, Peter is following outside at a distance. Inside, Jesus is being questioned and rejected by the very people He has come to save. Outside, Peter is being questioned about the One that has come to save him. In Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial, two men are questioned under pressure and their responses are quite different. Jesus stands. Peter cowers. Jesus denies nothing. Peter denies everything. Jesus is loyal. Peter is disloyal. Jesus engages pain. Peter engages comfort. Jesus is open. Peter is trying to hide. The blameless Lamb. The broken sinner.
For Peter, it was “just easier not to go there.” When have you chosen not to identify with Jesus? Is it in your home when the children ask a tough question? Is it at work or on a business trip? Maybe as a student in the classroom? Or at play in your chosen hobby? As a mother in your neighborhood? A high school or a college reunion? A tailgate party? What do you hide behind in moments of opportunity to claim Christ? Do you hide behind your morality, self-improvement plan, or good circumstances? Do you find yourself using vague answers like: “Well, I’m just trying to clean up some rough edges in my life” or “I’m just trying to be better at how I view life and get my priorities in order” or “I’ve been blessed by the man upstairs”?
I am grateful Jesus didn’t hide. I am glad He didn’t decide that “it’s just easier not to go there.” His trial would take Him to the Cross where His public death would pay for my private sin and my moments of denial. And we now have hope that God can use us. After the resurrection, Jesus would restore Peter and embolden him to preach the Gospel and see 3,000 people claim faith in Jesus. Peter would later write a letter to followers of Jesus who were being persecuted and would encourage them: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” – 1 Peter 3:14-15.
Wow! Is this is the same man that denied Jesus? Yes. The blameless Lamb breathed His Spirit into this broken sinner. The man who once denied vehemently now proclaimed boldly and graciously the Good News. Will you identify with Jesus? With whom? Where? When?
This week we invite you and your family to take a trip with us. Place a suitcase/bag where it can be seen all week and each day we will add a new item to it. For parent introduction and a list of items to be gathered before you begin, visit Journey with Jesus.
Day 4: Journey with Jesus
Add to the suitcase: twigs and leaves
Read: Matthew 26:36–39
Process and discuss together:
- What does this tell us about Jesus?
- What does it tell us about ourselves?
- How should we follow Jesus today because of this scripture?
- Who could you tell this story to?
- Pray together.