Love Boldly – Lenten Devotion 2 by Beth Mann

Matthew 26:57-27:2

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”’

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’

64 ‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?’

‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered.

67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, ‘Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?’

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’

72 He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’

Immediately a cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Last year, at the beginning of 2022, my new year’s resolution was asking God to be at the center of my dating life and to help prepare me for a partner, so that, one day, I may be a wife of noble character as written in Proverbs 31.  Thus, I have spent a bit over a year with God working on my understanding of singleness and how God has been using this time to better prepare me for a partner. For a while, I had been asking God for a man who meets all the specific criteria, who ticks every box. However, God likes to remind me in very abrupt ways when I am not quite on the right path. I just so happened to be mindlessly scrolling through the internet not too long ago when I came across a short video which said, ‘God will never give you a man who meets all your conditions. Or else there is no room for unconditional love.’

For me this was a bit of a palm to the face kind of moment, God hitting me with the obvious. But I reflected on how this not only applies to romantic relationships, but also our friendships, our families, our neighbors and all the people in our community. We will never have the perfect friend, spouse, colleague or neighbor.  Now this was a real scary realization for me as I then discovered within these relationships, I had been driven by fear rather than by Christ’s love. Fear of judgement, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of being betrayed. If you keep people at a distance, you decrease the risks of getting hurt. However, we also decrease our opportunity to love as Christ loved us.  For, we are not called to only love those whom it is easy to love, rather, we are to love all people unconditionally.

When reflecting on tonight’s readings, the one theme that stood out to me was ‘bold love’. That is Christ’s fearless and bold love, and in Peters case, the fear to love boldly. I couldn’t help but relate to Peter, who rather than being driven by love was driven by fear. I am sure I am not alone. In Peter’s defense, he does show more bravery than the other disciples who ran away as soon as Jesus was arrested. Perhaps, we may be more alike to these disciples.

However, let us put ourselves in Peters sandals for a moment. You’ve worked up the courage to follow Jesus from a distance in the courtyard where your dear friend would be put before the high priest. You sit with the guards, and according to the gospel of Matthew and John, are within earshot of the trial and sentence. Your mentor, teacher and best mate of 3 years who healed the sick, cared for the outsiders and fed the hungry, now stands silently as the council search for false witnesses who twist the words of His teachings so that he can be put to death! Will the same council seek to do the same with you? Will you be arrested for having followed him? Are you willing to die for a man who you didn’t fully understand? As you may be contemplating this, Jesus speaks up, the high priest tears off his robes in distress, Jesus is accused of blasphemy and as you know in accordance with your law, Jesus is sentenced to death.

In Peter’s mind, Jesus’ sentence to death was the end of it, there was no hope and no future. I don’t know about you, but I would be full of fear for my association with Jesus. Any act of boldness would be near impossible. As Peter slowly removes himself from the situation, he runs into people who seem to be aware of what is going on and identify him as one of Jesus’ followers.

“You were with Jesus”, “This man was with Jesus”, “Certainly you too are one of them”.

If they were not pointing their fingers at him, they certainly were with their words. I am sure Peter wanted to avoid any possibility of getting into trouble himself, thus he denies knowing his friend and once the rooster crows, realizes his betrayal. Whilst he has protected himself from harm and danger, he realizes his betrayal and failure to love boldly.

It isn’t evident if Peter was there as Jesus was then beaten and mocked, but it is evident that Peter was quickly confronted with the reality of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. However, the story, as we know, is not over. Whilst Peter’s love for his friend was overcome by fear, Jesus’ love for us was fearless and bold. Having been arrested, Jesus is now on trial, in His own Father’s house. For the most part, Jesus remains silent as witness after witness attempt to falsely accuse Him. I am sure I am not alone, that when a person says something untrue against us, or tries to make us look bad, we are quick to speak up and defend ourselves. Yet, this is not what Jesus does. Jesus does not defend himself. He does not interfere with His own conviction, for he knew he must be put to death for our sake. However, the high priest puts Jesus under oath to respond. The few words he said led to his sentence; convicted with blasphemy- claiming to be God as a mortal. I am sure Jesus could have pleaded His case or performed signs or called on legions of angel armies. However, Christ’s love is not selfish, and He is not deterred. Rather he remains courageous allowing himself to be beaten, mocked and wrongly accused out of love for us.  In what circumstances in this world has someone allowed themselves to be persecuted for the sake of their persecutors. This certainly is a bold and fearless love.

Christ shows us what it looks like to love boldly. We are very fortunate to live in a country with freedom to worship, send our children to Christian schools, a government that gives us days off work to be able to celebrate events that are dearly important to our faith. However, that is not to say that we have it made, it is still not easy to love the person who cuts you off in traffic, the person who has spread rumors about you, to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you, or perhaps to love someone who goes for the Adelaide Crows. But this is what we are called to do, to love the people around us unconditionally. To do this we need to be bold and trust God to provide us with the strength because we know we cannot do it on our own. As for me, I have gotten rid of the list of requirements I would like in a partner. For I know our God is not in the perfect husband producing industry, rather he is in the Christian character business, shaping us to be more like Christ. He builds our Christian Character through patience, perseverance, honesty, humility, self-control and many other ways.  Thus, I know God won’t instantly grant us the ability to love perfectly but will give us the opportunity to learn how to love unconditionally. Opportunities for us where we can learn to love boldly. We do not need to cower like Peter, for Christ overcame death and fear, he is the author and perfecter of love, he has restored us, and he walks with us on this this journey to let love live.