November 18 “Annas”

Annas

At the rebuke of Jesus, Peter dropped his sword, covered with Malchus’ blood, and ran. The other men followed suit, leaving Jesus alone with the Captain, the soldiers, Judas, and the stupefied Malchus, still holding an ear that no longer hurt. The unimpressed moon lit their way. The soldiers arrested Jesus, bound in chains, hand and foot, and led Him away toward the Temple, striking Him often with open palms and laughing at His pain.

The Court of Annas
They led Jesus first to the chambers of a priest named Annas. His son-in-law was Caiaphas who was high priest that year. At a safe distance, two of the eleven followed closely enough to observe events but at sufficient distance to avoid their own arrest: Peter and John. John entered the outer court of Annas but Peter hesitated at the doorway. A servant girl’s post was this doorway, assisting those who wished an audience with Annas. John was known to her so he spoke with her to allow Peter to enter. As Peter stepped through the entrance, she was sure she recognized him.

“You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”

In a panic, Peter denied knowing Jesus. The remaining soldiers who had performed the arrest waited there in the outer court while a squad of their ranks took Jesus inside. Small fires tried to give light to this pre-dawn darkness and provide a little warmth. Counting on the cover of darkness, Peter stood by one of the fires warming his hands. As he did, he saw blood on his right hand and quickly wiped away this evidence of his futile resistance in the Garden. His mind spun in useless circles of terror and regret. The prophecy of Jesus was in the process of fulfillment.

The Trial
Through the stone walls, Peter and John could hear the interrogation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. Annas wanted to know about the disciples—this compounded the fear in their hearts—and what doctrine Jesus taught. Jesus refused to answer.

“I spoke openly to the world…Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me… “

At that answer, the Captain of the guard slapped Jesus across the mouth with an open palm.

“Do You answer the high priest like that?”

As Jesus reeled from the blow a trickle of blood ran from his mouth. Peter and John heard the sound of the assault and it was if the Captain had struck each of them instead of Jesus. Jesus replied,

“If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

On to Caiaphas
Frustrated, Annas commanded the soldiers to take Jesus to Caiaphas. They manhandled Jesus back through the courtyard and collected the other soldiers. Together, they dragged Jesus passed the terrified Peter and John.

Peter tried to act as if none of this concerned him but one of the men sharing the fire with him accused him of being a follower of Jesus. He denied the charge. A relative of Malchus repeated the accusation with same result.

The eastern sky grew brighter as the inevitable morning approached. A nearby rooster, faithful to his God-given mission, announced in his manner the approaching day. At the crowing of the rooster the soldiers stopped for a moment, just long enough for Jesus to look in Peter’s direction. Their eyes met: pain and sorrow in the dawn of a New Covenant.

Scriptures:
John 18:12-27

Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?” Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I must not look with pride on my brother Simon Peter. I am no stronger than he was. I am sure that my denials of You are much more than three. There have been moments when You counted on me and I wasn’t there. I am so glad that failures do not eliminate us from Your care. I dare not judge Peter for I could not bear what he went through. Keep me true, Lord Jesus! Keep me true. Amen

Song:
Keep Me True

Traditional

Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Every hour, by Thy power, keep me true.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

August 19 “Tears”

Tears

The disciples, strong men every one, needed no more swords.
The sight of Jesus bound by the guards and offering no resistance was too much for them. They scattered out of the Garden and down the mountain. Most of them didn’t stop until they found a safe place to hide. Most but not all. Dr. Luke tells us that Peter followed at a safe distance. John reports in his own gospel that he did as well.

From a Distance
Out of sight from the guards and priests, Peter watched as the soldiers took Jesus to the home of the High Priest. Outside the house, a small fire did its best to illumine and warm a public gathering place, a courtyard for those who wished to do business with the High Priest. Peter did his best to blend in as one of those waiting for a dawn meeting. With walls separating him from the events in the house, Peter could hear but not see Jesus before the elders. Hearing it was more than enough.

A Peace Disturbed
Just moments before, the peace of this quiet night in the courtyard outside the home of the High Priest had been greatly disturbed when the temple guards dragged Jesus, bound and gagged, through their company and into the house. As order slowly returned to the group, there was only one topic of conversation—Jesus. They had all seen and heard Him and opinions were as numerous as the lips that spilled them into the moist night air. A servant girl noticed Peter and moved closer to him to inspect who this interloper might be. As the light from the fire danced across his terrified face, she recognized him.

“This man was also with Him.”

Peter tried to draw a breath but there was no air to be had. Finally, he choked out a response.

“Woman, I do not know Him.”

He moved away into the shadows and the attention of the group went elsewhere. The muffled sounds of trial and torture claimed the attention of the crowd. Another in the crowd recognized Peter.

“You also are of them.”

Peter denied knowing Jesus. An hour later it happened again. A voice from the crowd lifted above the sounds coming from inside the house.

“Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter was forced to defend himself. He cursed and said:

“Man, I do not know what you are saying!”

Dawn
At that moment, the Eastern sky began to glow with the promise of a new day. A rooster awakened to his duty announcing the morning. To all it was a welcomed and common sound, to all except one. Peter remembered the Lord’s prophecy. At the same moment, the guards emerged from the house manhandling Jesus through the courtyard. They stopped long enough for Jesus to look into the face of Peter.

The strong fisherman, master of the sea, leader of men, follower of Jesus, broke from the group, running away from the guards and Jesus. If anyone could have seen Peter’s face, they would have seen his tears.

The Scourge
A prisoner before this bar of justice had no rights. The guards began to strike Jesus, demanding that He prophecy by naming them. As Peter retreated farther from the scene, the sound of the blows and the taunts faded but the bitterness of his tears kept growing.

Scriptures:
Luke:22:54-65 NKJV
Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly. Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your night of suffering is commemorated every year and well it should be. There in the dusty streets of Jerusalem You, the innocent One, submitted to the authorities of men, authorities not of God but born in hearts and methods of sinful men. Cruel chains bound You. Heartless soldiers stuck Your face. Witnesses lied against You. The leaders of the People of God bent the laws of God to their own purposes to Your harm. Why? Because You love people. You, the Second Adam, were undoing the failure of the First Adam. No one but You could do this and You did. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Song:
In the Garden Boldly

Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. In the garden, boldly, Peter would have fought;
Now he answers coldly, Nay, I know Him not.

Refrain:
I would stand forever near my Savior’s side,
Lest to glory yonder I should be denied.

2. Tho’ life’s stony pathway be with dangers fraught,
Let my falterings never say, I know Him not.

Refrain

3 Though long years of sorrow be my earthly lot,
Let my murmurings never Say, I know Him not.

Refrain

4 In the dark temptation, vows and prayers forgot,
Let my yielding never way, I know Him not.

Refrain

5 So, in toil or pleasure, deed or word or thought,
Let me never, never, say, I know Him not.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

May 29 “Trials”

Trials

It is the story of the world’s greatest injustice that was in fact the world’s greatest act of mercy.
In the public trials of Jesus, justice was nowhere to be found. First before Caiaphas the High Priest, Jesus was judged by the Sanhedrin, a spiritual trial by spiritual men to determine offences to the spiritual laws of Israel. Later before Pilate He had a civil trial before officers of Roman law who could care less about spiritual things. In common they held a fear of Jesus, the ultimate nonconformist who held a different spirituality and whose citizenship was that of a higher Kingdom. In both cases, Jesus was demonstratively innocent but in both cases, He had to be found guilty.

Caiaphas
Liars came in bunches to testify before the elders. Having had little time to prepare, their stories did not match but that was of no consequence. The outcome was predetermined. Finally a pair of liars accused Jesus of speaking against the Temple threatening its destruction. This was useful for they had heard something like that from Jesus themselves. When questioned about this, Jesus did not answer. To the charge of claiming to be the Son God, Jesus pled guilty. The old man tore his priestly robes and declared blasphemy, seeking to end the trial at once. Suddenly the guards were free to beat Jesus and spit on Him. The council judged Him worthy of death as the tormentors of Jesus continued their unjust work.

Peter
Listening in an adjacent courtyard Peter tried to blend in with the vagrants in the pre-dawn darkness. Three times he was accosted by someone who had seen him with Jesus and three times he denied knowing Jesus at all. Much too early, a rooster in the distance sang his raucous song. The bird awakened the grief within Peter, sending him running away in tears.

Pilate
With daylight, the elders brought Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pilate. Blasphemy was of no concern to Pilate; he just wanted to keep the peace. A man who could stir such unrest must be dealt with.

Judas
These trials sent him back to the elders. He threw the pieces of silver at their feet declaring Jesus to be innocent. They were not moved and refused the money. Judas saw no options, no way out, no way back to the fellowship of his brothers. All he could see was a tree and rope; the price of his guilt.

Barabbas
Before Pilate things were simpler. There were no confusing religious standards of right and wrong; there was just Roman Law. The issue was not His claim to be the Son of God, but that of being King of Jews. When asked directly, Jesus admitted this was so. As testimony grew, Jesus fell silent. Pilate offered, as the custom was, a convicted assassin, Barabbas, instead of Jesus. The crowd demanded Jesus and, although Pilate saw no guilt in Jesus, and over the warning of his wife, he gave Jesus to the Roman soldiers to continue the torment.

The stripes on His back, the abuse from first the Temple guards and then the Roman soldiers, none of these bloody wounds was earned by the Lord. He was innocent of all wrongdoing yet He was judged guilty by the courts of Men. It is the story of the world’s greatest injustice that was, in fact, the world’s greatest act of mercy.

Scriptures:
Matthew 26:36-56; 27:1-

And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'” And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
Chapter 27
When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the judgments of men against You were merciless. You were innocent and they were guilty but You took the punishment. It was only the beginning of Your suffering; You were on Your way to Calvary. Lord, I am as guilty as any of the Temple guards or the Roman soldiers. I have been as wrong as the councils of Caiaphas or the courts of Pilate. Yet, now I stand before You as if I had never sinned, so thorough and complete is Your forgiveness! Thank You, O faultless One! Amen and Amen.

Song:
I Find No Fault In Him
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

I find no fault in Him.
I find no fault in Him.
Yet He was rejected
Despised of men
But I find no fault in Him.

They led Christ to Calvary
But He never said one word.
Just the cries of lost sinners
Was all the Savior heard.
And then they pierced Him in the side
And His blood came streaming down.
And that’s how he purchased my salvation
And I find no fault in Him.

I find no fault in Him.
I find no fault in Him.
Yet He was rejected
Despised of men
But I find no fault in Him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 24 “Peter”

Peter

Peter wanted to run away, but the sounds of torture from the Chief Priests’ court  but his heart would not let him.
Every blow from the open palm of a guard brought shouts of approval from the blood thirsty crowd. Every taunt from bold individuals in the mob brought laughter and derision. Peter listened for some sort of sound from the voice he knew so well, the voice that had said, “Follow me.” Would he indeed follow Jesus, even in this? Of all the chosen men, only he was close enough to hear the terrible sounds coming from inside.

The fire did little to warm Peter in this cold pre-dawn drama. He was careful not to stand close enough for his face to be clearly seen. Suddenly, a brand in the fire fell creating a shower of sparks, illuminating Peter’s face. He quickly jumped back, out of the light, but not before a servant girl belonging to one of the priests caught a good look at his face. Her voice brought the action out of the inner chamber into the servant’s court.

“You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”

First, Peter panicked and then, gathering his thoughts, he shifted farther into the shadows and denied what the girl had said. This brought more unwanted attention to him. He moved away from the fire completely; better the cold than to be recognized. In his mind, he could see the servants calling inside to their masters, “Here he is! Here is one of his men!” Peter could see himself bound and beaten too. “Follow me.”

Just then a loud noise came from the trial and all the attention shifted back to the other chamber. Peter took a deep breath, the first, it seemed, in quite a while. He climbed to an elevated porch, seeking anonymity. It was not to be. A rooster crowed, signally the coming of the day. Peter was so startled by the sound he froze in the light of a nearby torch. The same servant girl was there and called him out again. Again he denied her charge.

Things settled down for a while. People had more interesting things to think about than this one man hiding in the fleeting shadows. The sun, unhindered by the clouds that would later that day hide its face, began softly lighting the eastern sky. There was no place to hide. This time, several onlookers recognized Peter. They put the accent together with the face and remembered that Jesus and His men were from Galilee.

“Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.”

Trapped, there was only one course of action for Peter to prove he was not a follower of Jesus, the man known for eloquent speech and powerful blessings; he began to curse. Language he had seldom used at sea came flooding out of his mouth. With obscene vows he swore that he did not know this man, Jesus.

At that moment a second rooster called to the rising sun. The raucous sound of the bird and the sounds of torture a few feet away were all drowned in Peter’s hearing by the memory of the sad words of Jesus:

“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

There was nothing Peter could do now. He too, abandoned Jesus to the authorities. He ran from the servant’s court hiding tears that he could not control.

Scriptures:
Mark 14:66-72
Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the shame of Peter’s denial has touched believers since that terrible night in the servant’s court. Why? Because He was so bold! He declared that You were Messiah. He walked on water! He saw Your glory on the mountain of transfiguration. If he could fail You so miserably, what hope is there for us? Yet there is hope for us. You are that hope. Your Spirit now dwells within us to give us strength. We know about the resurrection! You will make us strong in the time of trial. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Keep Me True
Traditional

Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Every hour, by Thy power,
Keep me true.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.