Week Six: Denials, Commands, and Suffering

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When I was fourteen, I was one among many in a large class of confirmation students.  We had just stood before the congregation and repeated the membership vows.  In unison I had just declared my commitment to love and serve God with my whole being.  We were all seated, waiting to receive our first communion.  I was miserable.  Though I had attended months of confirmation class and had done all the homework for it, I knew in my heart that I had only been going through the motions.  I was faking it so others would approve of me.  Part of me wanted to run away; another part wanted to shout out, "No, wait!  This is too big for me to decide right now.  I'm not ready!"  But I had done neither one.  I had repeated all the right words without the right heart.  I felt that if I took communion, I would be sealing my fate as a hypocrite forever.  

"On the night in which Jesus gave himself up for us . . .. take eat, this is my body which is given for you...this is my blood of the New Covenant, poured out for you."  That day for the first time, I really heard what Jesus had sacrificed for me.  I heard how He had suffered for me.  I could no longer contain my agony.  I burst into tears and inwardly cried out to God, "No, no!  I cannot take this bread and juice that represent  your body and your blood.  Look what You've done for me, and I haven't even been honest with You!  I am unworthy. I am not worthy."  In the midst of my anguish, I heard God speak, "You are right.  You are not worthy.  That's why my Son died for you. Come!"  I came.  I received the elements.  I accepted the gift of Jesus' suffering and sacrifice for myself.   Then I could honestly say yes to all the vows and commitments I had previously spoken because now they came from my heart.  

Bonnie Cates 

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Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day One: 

DAILY — PRAYING SCRIPTURE:

Perhaps every one of us has been just like Peter. Sometimes too afraid to identify ourselves with Jesus, yet we still long to be near Him.  As we pray this familiar Scripture, put yourself in Peter's shoes. Use your senses — what do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste?    

Mark 14:66-72 — Dear God, help me to imagine what Peter was experiencing while he was below in the courtyard and one of the servant girls of the high priest came by.  When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus."  But he denied it.  "I don't know or understand what you are talking about."   

Then Peter went out into the entryway and the rooster crowed.  When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them."  Again, Peter denied it.  After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."  

Lord, at that point Peter began to call down curses, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about." Immediately, Lord, the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word You had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times."  And Peter broke down and wept. 

Lord, convict me when I deny You, and love me back to Yourself. Amen.

Ask yourself:  What did I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch as I read this passage? How does using my senses imaginatively help me understand Peter?  How can I be more sensitive to my own feelings in my daily walk with God? How might that help me relate to others more honestly? 

Prayer:  Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Two:

I like to think that under extreme pressure I will remain true to my convictions and faith.  But I’ve always worried that I will cave in to my fears.  I have the benefit of knowing what ultimately happens to Jesus and to his disciples, but Peter only knew that the man he had followed faithfully for three years was in danger of being killed...and so was he.  Join me in praying this passage, experiencing the raw emotions Peter felt. 

Matthew 26:67-75 — Dear God, enable me to put myself in Peter's place and feel what he felt as he was sitting out in the courtyard when a servant girl came to him and identified him as one who was with Jesus of Galilee . Peter denied it before them all saying, "I don't know what you're talking about."  Father, perhaps Peter wanted to avoid this servant girl, so he moved out to the gateway, but another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."  Peter denied it again, this time with an oath: "I don’t know the man!"  After a while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."  Lord, how desperate Peter must have felt as he called down curses and swore to them, "I don't know the man!"  Dear Jesus, what was going through Peter's heart and mind when a rooster crowed?  How utterly alone, miserable and ashamed he must have felt when he went outside and wept bitterly. Amen.

Ask yourself — When have I let my fears overwhelm me?  I have never been treated as a 2nd class citizen or been  imprisoned or in danger of death for identifying with Jesus, but many in the world do on a daily basis. How can I stand with these brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives are in danger? 

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Three:

As we spend a third day meditating on Peter's denial, let us remember that Jesus was close enough to see what was going on with Peter.  

Luke 22:54-62 — Dear Jesus, they seized You and led You away and took You into the house of the high priest.  Peter followed You at a distance.  But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw Peter seated there in the firelight.   She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him."  

But Peter denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.  

A little later someone else saw Peter and said, "You also are one of them."  "Man, I am not!" Peter replied.  

About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." 

Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!"  Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  Lord, You turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word You had spoken to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times."  Then, Lord, Peter went outside and wept bitterly.  Amen.

Ask Yourself — When Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter, what do I imagine that look meant from Jesus' perspective?  From Peter's perspective?  When have I let Jesus down? What do I see in Jesus' eyes when he looks straight at me?   

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Four: 

Pilate will always be remembered for “washing his hands” of Jesus. I will pay attention to the dilemma Pilate faces and his reluctance to be involved at all. 

John 19:1-16 — Heavenly Father, how grieved were You when Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged?  You saw the soldiers twisting together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.

How it must have grieved your heart to hear the chief priests and their officials shout, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Father, You know your Son always spoke the truth when He answered Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Lord, You knew that Pilate was more afraid of men than of You.  “Here is your king,” he said to the Jews, and they shouted, “Take him away!  Take him away! Crucify him!” Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.  Amen.

Ask Yourself — Have I experienced pressure from others to think, say or do the wrong thing?  Am I more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks?  How can I find courage to face difficult decisions and stay strong in the hard places?  What can I do to stand beside those who face life and death decisions because of their faith in Jesus?

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Five: 

Jesus suffered for me.  As I remember the last hours of Jesus’ life on earth, it’s important for me to take time to consider the depth of his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual suffering. 

John 19:1-3; 16-24  — Lord Jesus, Pilate took You to be flogged by the Roman soldiers who also twisted together a crown of thorns for your head.  They put a purple robe over your flayed skin and taunted You again and again saying, “Hail King of the Jews!” And they struck You repeatedly in the face. 

Finally, Pilate handed You over to them to be crucified.   So the soldiers took charge of You and forced You to carry your own cross out to the place of the Skull.  They crucified You between two others.  Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to your cross which read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

The soldiers took your clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each of them, but they gambled for your seamless undergarment. Lord, You suffered so much! Amen.

Ask Yourself  — What difference does it make to me that I worship a God who knows what it is to be shamed, naked, brutalized, devalued, abused over and over again?  How do I respond?

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Six: 

Christians identify Jesus as the suffering servant prophesied in Isaiah.  All of the suffering detailed here is also accompanied by the why—to pay the price for me.

Isaiah 52:14; 53:2-9 (Good News Version) — Lord, many people were shocked when they saw You, Lord Jesus; You were so disfigured that You hardly looked human. 

It was the will of the Lord that You, his servant, should grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.  You had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of You.  There was nothing attractive about You.  We despised You and rejected You.  You endured suffering and pain.  No one would even look at You—we ignored You as if You were nothing. 

But You endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain we should have borne. 

All the while we thought that Your suffering was punishment sent by God.   But because of our sins You were wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. 

We are healed by the punishment You suffered, made whole by the blows You received.  All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way.  But the Lord made the punishment fall on You, the punishment we deserved. 

You were treated harshly, but endured it humbly; You never said a word.  Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, You never said a word. 

You were arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about Your fate. 

You were put to death for the sins of our people.  You were placed in a grave with the wicked, You were buried with the rich even though You had never committed a crime or ever told a lie. Amen.

 Ask Yourself — How will I respond to this Suffering Servant and his sacrifice for me?  Who do I need to share this with today?  What will I do to continue to remember my brothers and sisters in Christ who are also suffering for their faith?

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 


Day Seven: 

Prayer: Dear God, I know next to nothing of the abuse and suffering You endured for me.  Forgive me for the times I act as though I am a “victim” because I have been interrupted or inconvenienced. This week as I consider what You suffered, give those who suffer for their faith what they need to stand strong, and help me to remember your sacrifice.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Look over your notes and prayers from the past week. What seems meaningful to you? Did you receive any insight, inspiration, or challenge? Does something require more prayer of discernment? Is God asking me to include the persecuted in my regular prayers?  Is God wanting me to be more involved in standing with those whose faith is costing them everything?  We don’t decide when God will “show up;” instead, we want to be ready and aware when He does. Whatever your experience this week, stay committed. God is! 

Catherine HortonComment