spiritual boldness

Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. [Matthew 26:74-75 ESV]

This is probably one of the most famous passages in the bible.
Who cannot relate to weeping bitterly when we fail spiritually?
Who does not occasionally hear the crow of the rooster when we fail?

Such is the result when we put our trust in ourselves - I can relate to Peter's boasting.
Many times we do not understand how difficult it is to overcome temptation.
We make boastful statements that we wish we had never said.

Such is the broken state that Peter finds himself as he denies the Lord a third time.
Peter, like all of us, needed the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
It is so interesting to see the change in Peter and the disciples in the book of Acts.

After the Holy Spirit came on them these disciples no longer boasted foolishly.
These lived lives marked by boldness rather than boasting.
Consider what Peter said before the same tribunal that tried Jesus:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.
This is the man who once cowered at the questioning of a servant girl.
He now waxes bold in front of those who had condemned his master to death.
This turn around is simply amazing and speaks to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Help me not to brag Lord. Fill me afresh with spiritual boldness. I need you in my life.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the seduction of earthly religion

The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. ... Then they spit in his face and struck him. [Matthew 26:62-65, 67 ESV]

Court is in session and the religion of humankind is on trial.
Ironically the religious elders believed that they are the ones in power.
These think that they are the ones with the authority to pass judgment.

Such is the way that religion works - such is the seduction of earthly religion.
Such is the dark pride that takes captive the minds and intents of men.
These who are called by God to care for the souls of humankind only think of themselves.

This is the setting of the trial that takes place in the middle of the night.
As people are sleeping unrighteousness reigns and attempts to judge pure righteousnes.
This is the end of all who are seduced by carnal and earthly religion.

Jesus would have no part in this trial and he remains silent before this evil tribunal.
He breaks his silence only when the top judge asks him a direct question about his identity.
His answer is called blasphemy because he identifies himself as an equal to God himself.

Yet he does not stop there in his answer to his judges.
He speaks of a day when he will sit as judge over those who sit in judgment that very day.
These hypocrites respond the way of religious hypocrites who exalt themselves instead of God.

Help me not to judge with fleshly motives Lord. Fill my heart with grace.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the influence of darkness

“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. [Matthew 26:55-56 ESV]

Darkness has descended on the Garden of Gethsemene.
God the Son is being mistreated and manhandled.
Things are being done in darkness that would never survive the scrutiny of light.

Jesus confronts this darkness as he speaks of the cowardice of those who take him captive.
These would not confront him when he taught in temple but now come under cover of night.
The darkness of the heart of humanity is on display.

In light of this I cannot help but think of these two verses from the prophet Isaiah:
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter ...
By oppression and judgment he was taken away ...
John the Baptist and Isaiah both watch from Heaven as their words begin to take form.

In a moment the Lamb of God will begin his journey to slaughter.
And no one, save Jesus, has a clue - not one observer understands the magnitude of the moment.

He who came in peace is treated like a criminal and all of creation groans.
Darkness has descended and the Lamb of God is the only light shining.
A reminder to each of us of how darkness can influence what we do.

Help us Lord to be influenced by your Light.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

a quick stop to the revolution

Then the armed men seized Jesus to arrest him. But one of the disciples pulled out a dagger and swung it at the servant of the high priest, slashing off his ear. Jesus said to him, “Put your dagger away. For all those who embrace violence will die by violence. Don’t you realize that I could ask my heavenly Father for angels to come at any time to deliver me? [Matthew 26:50-53 TPT]

The revolution has begun and the followers of Jesus are prepared to fight.
They envision standing with their Messiah as the soldiers who once fought with King David.
After all, Jesus was prophesied to reign in the throne of his royal ancestor.

This was the hour of victory that they were all waiting for.
The time when the Christ would vanquish his enemies and ascend to David's throne.
For three years they had waited for this moment.

But Jesus put a quick stop to the revolution that they had all imagined.
He refuses to call on angels and instead surrenders to his oppressors.
I cannot imagine the horror of that moment in the minds of his followers.

Unlike them, Jesus was ready for what was to come.
He had prepared himself in prayer while his discipled slept.
In a sense, he had already won the battle on his knees.

Yet his disciples did not understand because they were spiritually asleep.
They were totally unprepared for what was to come.
The battle ahead could not be won with swords - spiritual battles never are.

Lord, help me to pray when I am tempted to sleep.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.


when friends desert you

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. [Matthew 26:45-49 ESV]

The thought that comes to me as I read this is "With friends like these who needs enemies?"
Before the betrayer comes all of Jesus friends sleep - no one is there in his hour of need.
When crisis comes his friends run away and Jesus stands all alone.

And this crisis - it comes in the form of a kiss.
I cannot imagine how the heart of Jesus broke as he saw Judas walking towards him.
Jesus certainly knew, and experienced, gut-wrenching disappointment that day.

I cannot imagine the thoughts that went through his mind.
In a matter of moments all of his friends would run and forsake him.
These who he lived with him every day for three years would abandon him.

I want to find something redeeming in this moment for God but I cannot.
I want to end this meditation on something positive and uplifting.
But all I can see is Jesus standing in the garden all alone and with a broken heart.

Perhaps the message in this story is that sometimes life breaks your heart?
Maybe it reveals that doing the right thing does not always give good results?
And it might be possible that times like these give us context for friends who do not run?

I am so sorry for all of the times that I have broken your heart Lord. Please forgive me.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

courage to trust

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ... Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” [Matthew 26:38,39, 42 ESV]

If you ever wondered whether God understands what it is like to be fearful?
Or if he could remotely relate to your anxiety about future events?
This passage helps us to answer those questions and bit.

Knowing the painful fate of scourging and crucifixion every part of Jesus' being is stressed.
His words to friends, and his prayers, are racked with agonizing thoughts and terrifying emotions.
In another gospel it is reported that he sweat droplets of blood as he faced death in the eye.

Every part of Jesus wants to run but he stands firm in prayer.
In a small way I can relate to the thoughts and emotions conveyed in this passage.
Here is a clip from a really stressful time in my life.
A month before my first wife Ellen died I found myself racked with pain and anxiety. I had been praying for her healing for years and she was not any better. That day I prayed a prayer similar to the one in this passage. I released Ellen into the hands of the Father and said that whatever He wanted was OK with me. It was one of the toughest prayers that I have ever prayed. Prayers such as these always are because they involve trust.
Praying like this can be so hard because it involves the releasing of our control.
Gut wrenching when we understand that the future may involve personal loss and pain.
Yet these prayers are the kind that dig deep into what it means to trust the Lord.

In times of great pain and struggle it takes courage to trust the Lord.
It can be so hard to release control and simply ask for his will to be done.
Jesus' prayers in the garden help us to know that God can be trusted with our pain.

Not my will but yours Lord. Let your kingdom come and your will be done.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.