As we are coming to the end of our stay in Israel, we can all look back on some unforgettable experiences. As we enjoyed the Sabbath rest, after our evening meal we went into town where we saw some Jews listening to a sermon about “partnership with God”.
This was followed by a time of celebration and dancing which really brought to mind the reality that God is about creating “One New Man” (Eph 2:14-16) . You may see some familiar faces in the dance!
Here is very thoughtful write up from Stephen as he reflected on our time spent the day before in Caiaphas’ house.
Our visit to Caiaphas’ house on day 4 prompted me to take a close look at Peter’s journey with Jesus from the Mount of Olives to Caiaphas’ house. At the centre stage lies Christ’s brutal ordeal before the high priest, Caiaphas. It was here at Caiaphas’ house that Christ faced intensive interrogation, false accusation and imprisonment. However, the story leading up to Peter’s denial began as Jesus approached the Mount of Olives.
I can now imagine the scenes leading up to Peter’s denial as we are descending from the Mount of Olives and looking down at the beautiful city of Jerusalem. It was just only a few days before Peter’s denial. Matthew 26 provides us a comprehensive account of the events as they unfold. Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples had just finished the last supper and begin singing a hymn. Once they arrived at the Mount of Olives, Jesus began telling the disciples some hard truths. “All you shall be offended because of me this night…,” to this Peter responded; “though if all men shall be offended because of you, yet I will never be offend…” (Matthew 24:30-33). Jesus seeing into the future, responded to Peter, “verily I say unto you, that this night, before the cock crow, you shall deny thrice.” Marks 14:31 particularly tells us that Peter “spoke [all] the more vehemently, if I should die with you, I will not deny you…” At this point, it worth taking a pause and picture Peter’s confession of faith in Christ. What a bold sight it must have been?
How strong was Peter’s faith, or should we say, how strong on self-reliance was his confession? Too soon, we find Peter cutting Marcus’s ear (one of the high priest servants who came to arrest Christ), whilst on the other hand, he proves helpless at Christ’s darkest hour of need at Gethsemane. What a contrast? One clear observation so far as we follow Peter to Caiaphas’s house was that his confession never to deny Christ has not been truly tested, at least not directly yet. Secondly, “why did “Peter follow Him [Christ] afar off unto the high priest’s palace?” (Matthew 26:58).
At the garden where Jesus was arrested, Peter managed to escape unquestioned by the guard. Once we caught up with Peter at Caiaphas’ house, his confession was tested, and what a test it was. Peter failed the test once he was questioned by a maid (he denied), then by Marcus’s close relative (he denied with oath) and later in the midst of a group of people (denied whilst swearing and cursing) (Matthew 26:70-74). The book of Luke’s account of this event really got my attention because it says that Peter had one hour after his second denial of the Lord before he proceeded to his last denial (Luke 22:59). This one-hour gap could have been used to pray, repent or at least reconsider this confession? This moment shines a lot of light onto why Peter wept bitterly after the Lord looked at him as He is lead out of Caiaphas’ house to Pilate (Luke 22:61). His action here also provides some reasons why he followed Christ afar off. Could it be that he had begun doubting his earlier strong confession, in any case, he certainly did not live by his confession of faith. It is very dangerous to follow the Lord at a distance. However strong or weak our faith may be; we should walk steadfastly ever so closely with him, daily.
Following Peter from Mount of Olives to Caiaphas’ house provides me, as it should for many, a revaluation of my confession in Christ, and to ask God for grace to walk with Him and remain faithful to Him. Thankfully, we know that story did not ends with Peter’s denial. Peter did go on to repent and continue to follow Christ and became one of the pillars of the early church to advance Christendom (John 21 and Act 2). Some years later, a more seasoned Peter could say confidently to us today that “…the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto the praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).