In modern America you can believe anything you want as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Muslims throughout the world are in the news almost every day because they are willing to die for their beliefs. Most Americans can’t fathom how it is possible that anyone would die for his beliefs because most folks fear death more than anything else. Our colonial fathers and mothers understood, but for the most part their distant children don’t get it.
The disciples of Christ expressed willingness to die for Him – Peter most vocally. People remember Peter’s denial of Jesus and think him a coward, but they forget he tried to live up to his promise. At the point of crisis, Peter went full beast mode, drew his sword, and sliced a dude’s ear off. It was dark and he probably wasn’t aiming for the ear: he was trying to waste that fool and be The Greatest Disciple, Jesus’ Bodyguard & Right-Hand Man. He’d made his decision to make a valiant stand, and just when his adrenaline was up in the red zone and he was ready to pound the next guy, Jesus yelled “NO!” And then He healed the evildoer’s ear.
It was so very deflating when Jesus wouldn’t let him fight. It took Peter from a place of ACTION to a place of helplessness. He just stood there, not knowing what to do or say, breathing hard, falling on the inside. When the rest of the disciples split, he ran too. Later that night, Peter would come to know himself better than he ever wanted to, and he got reduced even further. All because Jesus wouldn’t let him go out in a blaze of glory.
Jesus said, No, no, Peter. If you take this carnal approach, you’ll die by this carnal approach. I’m not having an armed revolt here, so no more slicing and dicing and strong-arming your way through this dark night. Just put the whole thing away – both the sword and your willingness to use it. Get rid of those trappings. I know you’d like to hurry up and die with Me but I’m not interested in your dying right now. I’d really have liked to have you PRAY for an hour with Me, instead of trying to fight and die here. Everything I’ve taught you is about LIVING, not dying. I want You to LIVE for Me, Peter.
Those Muslims I mentioned earlier, I get where they’re coming from, wanting to rush out and die for their false god. I used to have an attitude like poor prayerless Peter in the garden, full of zeal and holy indignation, whipping a sword out to slay any clueless, beleaguered soul who was out of line with the truth and didn’t relate to God the way I did. When I was young I thought myself so full of knowledge and power and wisdom I couldn’t even imagine I’d make it past 25 years, or at the most 30, because I was certain I’d be martyred by the unbelievers and the reprobate Jezebel church before that time. My view of myself did not square with my actual condition: I needed God and other people to help me discover that, and the process was ugly.
What Peter learned – what we have to learn – is that God calls us to LIVE FIRST. The call to live scares us because we know (if we’re honest) we aren’t up to the task of following in Jesus’ footsteps. We’d rather do almost anything other than having to live, because life in God is dependency, not natural strength and cunning. Prayer is humiliating to the flesh, having to ask for daily bread and defense from the power of the evil one. Peter was willing to die, but he wasn’t yet willing to live. Jesus knew that full well when He said beforehand, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
That’s why the call to life is so important, why we have to be awakened to the desire of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live. Because the way of the natural man with all his striving works death in the situations around him, but one who lives for and unto God brings life and strength and healing to others, and glory to the God whose ways are not our ways.
It is Day 14,936.