Cock-a-doodle-doo, 3 strikes and you’re out!

Peter

Peter was one of the 12 disciples and there were many accounts on his encounters with Jesus in the gospel. One of them was the rooster crowing as a reminder of Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial of him. It was at the time when Jesus was betrayed and was about to be arrested and the following account was written in the book of John 13:36-38 ESV:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

And indeed, soon after Jesus was arrested and was being taken away to be brought before the High Priest, and subsequently to Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor. The accounts about Peter’s reaction was recorded:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:15-18 ESV)

Peter Denies Jesus Again

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. (John 18:25-27 ESV)

Peter seemed like an impulsive and impetuous chap, at times `cocky’ (maybe this was how that term came about). For example, when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet:

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:8-9 ESV)

He was the one who drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus. He was also the first to walk on water to approach Jesus:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28-30 ESV)

Usually such a person in our company of friends will get shunned or made fun of for being arrogant or `cocky’. Often they will be caught in fights or arguments and get into all sorts of trouble. However, how did Jesus relate with Peter during his time with him?

There were several crucial times where Jesus had chosen 3 of his disciples, Peter, James and John to be with him when he went to the house where a child laid dead with her parents (Luke 8:51), and when he went up a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28) just before he was going to be arrested. Jesus also said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). It was expected that Peter would respond by saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33 ESV) and thereafter, he denied Jesus 3 times.

Look again at what Jesus said to Peter “and WHEN you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He knew the heart of Peter and loved him warts and all. Later we will find that Peter became one of the great apostles and wrote some of the letters in the bible. There was a transformation over his life, he repented and was changing from being that `cocky’ chap to a great teacher and apostle of that time. Although snippets of his character do come about, he was learning and changing, ever obedient to the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. For example when Peter had a kind of a vision and saw on a sheet, all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:12-15 ESV). Later Peter was told by the Spirit to meet a centurion (non-Jew) and to share the good news to him and the people around him. Peter realised what God was teaching him:

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

A life touched by Jesus should be one that leads to change and transformation towards being more like Jesus and abiding in his word more and more. Peter was clearly moving in that direction and indeed brought glory to God for all that he did till his death.

My prayer is that my life will continue to be transformed to be more like Jesus. That I will be able to turn and strengthen others. That through it all, I will be able to love and cherish God more and more for who he is and what he has done for me.

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The Foolish Ones

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Two men were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus. A good 11 km walk from Jerusalem where they started. They were affected by the recent events that took place in Jerusalem and it was the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent disappearance of his body from the tomb. As they were discussing and walking, someone came by and asked them what they were talking about. One of them questioned the stranger that he must be the only one from Jerusalem who does not know what had happened, like in today’s context it would have been viral, all over the news and trending on social media.

When they related the incidents to him, they said Jesus was supposedly great and likely to be the one to redeem Israel but he was condemned to death and was crucified. They added that they were baffled by the latest report (breaking news) that just happened that day, which was the third day. They heard that the body was missing from the tomb and some women who went there witnessed that it was empty and saw visions of angels who told them that Jesus is alive.

Then the man said to the two, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The above story was taken from Luke 24:13-26 and there are two key points that I am learning from the passage and it involved both the eyes and heart of man.

Reflection

It is so easy to read and see what has happened around us but yet our hearts may not be in tune or true to what we claim to believe. Some might say, `Seeing is believing’ but this story clearly disprove this. Many have seen and experienced first hand all that has happened but many also have chosen not to believe or to remain in a state of unbelief.

The statement made of the two men; “O foolish ones” revealed their thoughts but the cause was “slow of heart to believe”. I pray and hope for my heart to burn and be true to God, and my eyes to see only the glory of God.

Three

snoopy's brother

Three disciples, Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus to the point where he was going to pray. He was greatly distressed and troubled and I am quite sure these disciples would have noticed this unusual and never before state that Jesus was in. He even said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” and he went further away to pray alone. I find it hard to accept that this simple request to remain there and watch could not be followed by the three, perhaps the closest or most obedient of all the disciples.

When Jesus came back from praying for about an hour, he found the three of them sleeping and questioned, “Could you not watch one hour?” He repeated the same request for them to watch and went to pray again but in all three times, he found them asleep when he returned. Yes, it was stated that their eyes were very heavy but he warned them to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Later, when Jesus was betrayed and brought to the high priest, Peter who was loitering near the vicinity, was pointed out by a servant girl saying that he was with the company of Jesus and Peter denied knowing Jesus and this happened three times. On an earlier occasion, Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times by the time the rooster crowed twice and the rooster did crow twice by the third denial and thereafter, Peter broke down and cried.

I was taken aback by how it took three times before one would realise something was wrong or that you have made the mistake. Reflecting on the `human’ condition (the flesh), it is so easy to succumb to the weakness of the body instead of leaning on the strength that comes from the spirit. If this was not possible to overcome, Jesus would not have said to the three disciples “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Now I ask myself these questions:

Would I need to make a mistake before I learn or obey?

How can I avoid a repeated scenario before I realise my wilful ways?

Reference

Mark 14:27-31 Peter’s denial was predicted

Mark 14:32-42 Three disciples fell asleep three times

Mark 14:66-72 Peter’s denied knowing Jesus three times

One thing

One thing

Numbers have intrigued me recently. Not the book of Numbers but actual numbers like 300, 5000 and 4000 were the titles of recent posts that focused on stories from the bible. This one is by far the most intriguing for me. I hope the following would explain why.

The person in focus in this story taken from Mark 10:17-27 was about a rich young man who ran up to Jesus and knelt down before him to ask how he could inherit eternal life. The man said he had followed all the laws that was required of him and had been diligent and obedient from a young age. Jesus knew this man’s heart and asked him: You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” This young man turned away in sorrow and despair. It was because he had many possessions and it was clear that he could not part with them.

One of the thoughts I had was whether Jesus was asking too much. Yes, it was one thing but it was a whole lot of `one thing’ for this man. However, after reading again carefully, Jesus said, “You LACK one thing”. That man had a lot of things but he lacked ONE thing. Ok, the subsequent verses also talked about how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God such that even the disciples asked Jesus, “Then who can be saved?”.

What is that lack? I believe that it has to do with the heart. The heart is meant to be given to God and like that rich young man, we can do all the rituals and follow all the laws diligently and daily but never really give our heart to God. Something or someone else has gotten our heart above God. This reminds me of another passage from Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Well, the story focused on wealth that has taken the heart of that young man away from God but this can apply to anything that has taken our heart away from God.

I ask myself this question “What is that ONE thing I lack, that is holding me back from God?” I know some of us may be thinking that there are MANY things… but we need to start somewhere.

Man shall not live by bread alone

one loaf

I have heard people say they have read the whole bible and some may have read it several times over and in my teens, I used to envy them. It was daunting to read 66 books that have over a thousand chapters in all and at that time, most bibles were of the old english language known as the King James version so it was even harder to read or understand. Soon and thankfully more `current’ english versions became readily available such as, the good news and living bible, and the new international versions.

Just reading the bible is not the point really. I realised that even though I have read some of the books in the bible several times over the years, the words I read before will have a different impact or effect on me when I read them again at another time. This opened my eyes to the meaning of some of the often quoted verses or phrases from the bible such as in Matthew chapter 4 verse 4 when Jesus answered, “it is written,`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Prior to this, Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days and nights. He had been fasting and became hungry so the devil tempted him and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The past two posts, 5000 and 4000 which represented the numbers of people that Jesus fed with 5 and 7 loaves of bread respectively, showed how much God can do with so little that we have. We might think the disciples would have gotten the idea after this two major miracle episodes. However, when they went on a boat to another place with Jesus, and discovered they had forgotten to bring bread and had only one loaf on the boat, “.. they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.” (Mark 8:16). If you read on verses 17 to 21 you will find Jesus asking them several questions, such as “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?”. 

Increasingly, I see why the bible is also called the LIVING word and why the need for us to meditate on it day and night. Food like bread will not give life as we think it does. What then is food or life? In John 4:34, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

Here I ask myself these questions:

  • What is that `one loaf of bread’ or the lack of it that I am worried or fussing about?
  • How am I reading the word of God?

4000

A few small fish and 7 loaves

The people gathered to listen to Jesus and actually stayed on in that desolate place to be with him. It was not just for one evening like when he was with the 5000 but for 3 whole days and they also had no food to eat. Jesus told his disciples that he had compassion for them and if they were sent back in this state, they may faint along the way. This time, the people numbered about 4000.

The disciples responded to Jesus by questioning how in such a desolate place and with just some bread can they feed the multitudes. Jesus asked how many loaves do they have and they replied 7. Somehow they also had a few small fish. Jesus again gave thanks and blessed what was available and fed the 4000 till they were satisfied and they collected 7 baskets full of leftovers.

Few Fish and 7 Loaves

What’s up with the 12 grown up disciples again? I thought not too long ago, they witnessed the 5000 being fed with not only less than what they had but with 1000 lesser mouths to feed.

Were they troubled about giving the little food they had? With the 5000 people, they were considering the cost of feeding them which was 200 days worth of wages and obviously they do not have the means.

What are our considerations?

– Mark 8:1-10

5000

2 fish and 5 loaves

People from all the towns wanted to see and hear Jesus, as they heard of miracles and healing taking place wherever he went so they pursued and followed him wherever he went. Jesus and his disciples needed to eat and rest so he asked them to go by boat to a remote place to find rest as the people kept coming to them non stop.

They headed for a desolate place but Jesus saw the people running towards their direction. He felt compassion for the multitudes and decided to go ashore to spend time teaching them. It was getting dark and the disciples were worried as the people had a long way to go back from where they came and they had not eaten. Jesus then asked his disciples to give them something to eat.

His 12 disciples were baffled as to how to feed 5000 people in a desolate place with little or no money or food on hand. So they questioned Jesus for giving them such an impossible task. Jesus then asked them to find what food they can get and they presented him with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, perhaps to show how ridiculous it was to even consider this as an option to feed the people.

bread-fish-mosaic-300x225

Well, most of us would already know that the 5000 were fed with these 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. It has been and still is a famous bible story often told to children. Why children? Is it because they were gullible enough to believe this was possible? Is it because it was such a fantastic and amazing story? I believe this is appealing to children as it was a simple and an amazing miracle story like many other great miracle stories from the old testament. As a grown up, I reflect on whether I truly believe this when I read it now.

Well, the 12 grown up disciples obviously did not until they witnessed it happening. So the 5000 were fed with what they had and the leftovers from the crowd filled 12 baskets! I wondered whether it was meant to show the disciples a basket of leftover each as a post testimony of the miracle that had just taken place as if it was not enough that they had already seen it before their eyes point blank.

This is remarkable because his disciples had previously witnessed Jesus healing many blind, deaf and sick people and cast out demons, but had found it hard to obey or follow his instructions to feed 5000 people when they had little or no means to do so.

Have we been finding it hard too?

– Mark 6:30-44