Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch, at Graymoor Retreat Center, Garrison, NY, March 2016
“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right 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, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.'” (John 13:36-38, NASB).
My church has an interesting service every year on Good Friday. It is a lengthy service (scheduled to last about three hours). Four people share their personal testimonies, focusing on the theme, “What the cross means to me.”
Church is probably the easiest place to take our stand for Christ. (If it is not, you need to find another church.) But, when the temptations of everyday life strike, we find out how strong we really are.
As I reflect on the cross this year, I wonder which disciple am I most like. Which disciple do you imitate most?
- Judas Iscariot: He followed Jesus, and was even chosen as one of the twelve disciples. All of them had their issues to deal with. For Judas, a big one was greed: John 12:4-6 tells us that, as the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry team, he would frequently help himself to some of their money. His greed eventually drove him to sell Jesus out for 30 silver pieces.
By the time he realized the error of his ways, the grief was greater than he could handle. When he could not correct his mistake, he committed suicide.
I often wonder what would have happened if he had not killed himself: I am sure that, despite his horrible sin, Jesus would have forgiven him and restored him to ministry.
Do I, like Judas, love the things of this world more than Jesus. Am I willing to sell Him out, to compromise—to risk losing my fellowship with Him—for the things of this world?
- Peter: Here is a man who could always talk like a spiritual giant. Even until the end, he promised that he would be the last man standing with Jesus, even if it meant dying with him. Anyone with a Sunday school education knows how that story played out. Within a few hours, while Jesus was standing trial before a court that had already rendered its verdict before his arrest, Peter pretended he did not know who Jesus was. He would not testify in His defense. He would not even present himself as a friend offering moral or emotional support during Jesus’ darkest hour.
Am I like Peter? Can I talk like a holy spiritual giant when I am around other Christians, but then clam up and shy away when surrounded by those who are hostile to the things of God?
- John and Mary: Only a small handful of Jesus’ disciples stood by Him until the end. John 19:25-27 gives us a brief list. Jesus’ mother was there; so were a few other women who had travelled with His entourage. Only one man remained: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Peter may have been the strongest leader amongst the disciples, but John may very well have been Jesus’ closest friend. When everybody else fled, John stayed with Him.
The photo at the top of this page depicts a famous image from Christian art. Mary holding the dead body of Jesus immediately after it was removed from the cross. The woman who 33 years earlier held a baby, who she knew would be the Saviour of the world, now grieved as all of her hopes, dreams, and expectations seemed to have been destroyed.
Jesus’ dying request was that His buddy, John, take care of his widowed mother now. Not only was he to become one of the people assigned to proclaim the Gospel to all the world; John was also entrusted with a task that truly marked him as part of Jesus’ family.
Am I like Mary and John, willing to follow Jesus, even when it gets hard? Am I willing to stay with Him when my expectations are nailed to the cross? Can Jesus trust me, like He trusted John, with those ministries that lie closest to His heart?
In the midst of the physical sufferings of His scourging and the cross, Jesus must have faced the unbearable pain of emotional and relational turmoil: The friend who betrayed Him; the friend who denied Him; those who abandoned Him. Even the pain of seeing His mother and closest friend grieve must have broken His heart. For the joy set before Him, though, He endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:1-2), so that we can be forgiven for those times that we betray, deny, and abandon God.
This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.