Polar Pray-ers

     While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.  Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”  Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.  With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 
     “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.  But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Matthew 26:47-56 (NIV)

In this passage we see polar opposites in Peter and Jesus

Jesus, having been praying and submitting to the Father’s will for hours immediately before Judas showed up is calm and secure, knowing that He is right in the center of the God’s will.  He understands that God could deliver Him if asked Him to, but He clearly sees the bigger picture – that all of this is happening just as it is supposed to, just as it is prophesied in Scripture.  He knows that these men will end up killing His body, but that they will be helpless to do anything else to Him.  (Cf. Luke 12:4-5)  He knows that in the center of God’s will, His soul is safe forever.  There is no compromise in His heart, no looking for a way out, and no second thoughts.  He committed to this path before the mob ever showed up, and all that remains is to calmly walk the path that God has laid out for Him, secure in the fact that, when all is said and done, He will be back with the Father from whom He came.

Peter, having slept instead of praying, in spite of Jesus’ urging and warning that he must pray in order to escape the temptation that is right around the corner (Matthew 26:41), is caught by surprise at this whole turn of events.  Even though Jesus had told him and the other 11 disciples that all of this was going to happen, they had all blown it off, choosing instead to focus on Jesus’ popularity and their future in His kingdom.  Peter, who confessed that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matthew 16:16), seems to have forgotten all of that, and responds with a sword in a misguided attempt to rescue Jesus.  Peter, out of touch with God, can’t see that this is all the unfolding of the divine plan.  Instead, it seems like everything has suddenly gone very, very wrong.  And so, with Jesus’ chastisement still ringing in his ears, he runs away with the others.

To Peter’s credit, he follows Jesus and His captors at a distance, even all the way into the courtyard of the high priest.  But even there we see two diametrically opposed attitudes and actions.  Jesus doesn’t even answer His accusers’ false charges, only answering clearly when asked His identity.  Peter denies the true accusations made against him, in the process even denying knowing Jesus Himself, and falling prey to the very temptation that Jesus warned Him to prepare himself to win against through watching and praying.

Our calling, of course, is to be like Jesus, and not like Peter.  To be constant in prayer so that we know God’s plan and our part in it.  To step boldly forward to engage God’s plan as it unfolds, no matter how scary it may look, and not to fight against it.  To clearly testify to our identify as followers of Jesus, not to deny who we are and who He is out of some misguided sense of self-preservation.

Peter, through his un-Christ-like attitude and actions, ended up building a lot of guilt into his life, that later made it difficult for him to face the risen Jesus.  Lord only knows what the story would have been if he had lived up to his calling all the way through, first being faithful in prayer, and then being faithful to Jesus in the midst of his time of trial.  I personally think it would have been a LOT better!


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