Friday, March 18, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 20, 2016

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(Struggling with faith)
(Mark 14:27-31 & 66-72)

   H.G. Welles once wrote, “A man can be a bad musician, and yet, be passionately in love with music”. In Mark chapter 14, verses 26-31, JESUS foretells of an event that was, quite literally, hours away from realization. There HE tells of a time, very shortly, when all of HIS closest disciples would desert HIM and run away in fear of man. Indeed the Scripture was about to be fulfilled that said, “GOD will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”.
    Here in this passage JESUS discloses to HIS closest followers, that they will all desert HIM and flee, after HIS betrayal by Judas Iscariot, and HIS arrest by the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem. However, JESUS offers them hope as HE also tells them that HE will be raised from the dead by GOD the FATHER three days later, and that, HE would then go ahead of them, and meet them in Galilee. The Apostle Peter strongly rebuked JESUS’ statements to them and insisted quite vehemently that, “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!”  
    However, sometimes when a man says, “That’s the one thing that I will never do”, that’s the very thing he needs to constantly guard against doing. Satan often attacks a person at a point where they are most sure of themselves, because he knows that it is there, where they are most likely to be unprepared.
    The shame of failure and disloyalty to a friend or loved one is not all together a loss in that, it can give one a sense of sympathy and understanding that, otherwise, they may have never attained. “Do you love ME?” is what JESUS said to Peter, three times in John 21, and I guess, the only way that any of us can ever really prove our love for JESUS is by loving others. History now tells us that eventually, eleven of JESUS’ disciples really did die a horrible death for HIS sake. Only the Apostle John lived to a ripe old age and died a natural death. However, he was a man who spent his entire life showing the world how to live the examples of CHRIST.
     In John’s Gospel account he writes, that, after JESUS allowed the soldiers to arrest HIM, Peter and one of the other disciples followed them back into the city. John was the disciple who was known by the high priest, and thereby, he had access to the high priest’s courtyard. He was also able to gain permission for Peter’s entrance into the courtyard, from the lady who kept the door. However, the lady recognized Peter also as one of JESUS’ disciples, and when she inquired this of him, for the first time, he denied that he even knew JESUS.
   In mark 14:66-72 it is written that Peter was standing below the courtyard when this lady recognized him while he was warming himself at the fire. When she asked him if he was one of those who followed JESUS he told her, “I don’t know what you are talking about”, and as he spoke, he heard the rooster crow the first time. When the servant girl began telling the others, who were standing around the fire with Peter, that, he was definitely one of them with JESUS, Peter denied her allegations once again.
    Later on some of the other bystanders said to Peter, “Surely you must be one of them because you’re also from Galilee”. And then, for the third and final time, Peter denied knowing JESUS, by stating vehemently, “I swear by GOD, I don’t know this man you’re talking about”, and immediately after he spoke, he heard the sound of the rooster’s crow for a second time. Suddenly JESUS’ words flashed through his mind, and he broke down and cried like a baby.
    Here we see a very human, but somewhat complicated side of Peter. Only moments earlier he had been this brave, defiant defender of JESUS’, while in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, we see him cowering down under the pressure of the reality of what courage a man has to have in order to follow in the footsteps of CHRIST.
    Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have often faced martyrdom bravely, but there are perhaps even more times when they’ve buckled down under at the threat of death. Ironically, John, the other disciple didn’t seem to have a problem with being known as a follower of CHRIST. He was well known by the lady at the door, and the high priest, yet, he did not try to hide, or play the role of a secret Christian, but rather, he entered boldly into the temple to be near JESUS.
    It is said that “love” is the greatest privilege in the world, and yet, it brings with it, the greatest responsibility. For Peter, “love” brought a cross, and he truly did die for the LORD. In fact, Jewish tradition tells us that he requested to be hung upside down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to even die in the exact same manner as CHRIST. 
     And so, whenever we are struggling with our faith, we must remember the comeback from failure that Peter made. His love for JESUS eventually overcame his fear of man, and, of satan, and he went on to personify the concept of “the Rock” upon which JESUS CHRIST said HE would build HIS Church, and as JESUS promised, “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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