By Charles D. Earl
Former Director of Missions, Holston Valley Baptist Assoc., Rogersville
I fear loyalty is a characteristic we find in short supply as we look across the mainstream of Christianity today. The question stares each of us in the face: Just how loyal am I? We should ask that question of ourselves often. Well, let us give an answer. Really now, just how loyal are we?
In our text Jesus has already gone with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Since Judas has already departed from the 12, Jesus has taken the 11 with Him to the Garden. At some point in the garden He leaves the eight and takes Peter, James, and John to go a “little farther” to pray. After three periods in prayer, each time finding the disciples asleep when He returns, we are told Judas arrives at Gethsemane with the soldiers. Judas gives Jesus the kiss of betrayal, thus signifying the ultimate in not being loyal. And in verse 56b we read, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Talk about lack of loyalty? But wait, have we asked ourselves, would we not have done the same? Would we?
Now we come to our lesson in Matthew. Verse 57 of chapter 26 tells us that after they arrested Jesus the first place they took Him was to Caiaphas, the high priest. It also says all “the scribes and elders” were also present. In verse 58 it says Peter “followed Him at a distance.” At least it seems Peter stayed in the same area where Jesus was. We are not told the location of the other disciples.
Our text begins by giving us an example of Jesus being loyal to His calling in verses 63-67. When the high priest told our Lord he was “putting Him under oath,” He didn’t realize since Jesus was God in human flesh he was asking Him to swear by Himself! But when the high priest asked Him “(Are You) the Christ, the Son God?” Jesus immediately, distinctly, and obediently answered, “It is as you said.” What do we do when we are in a situation where it really costs us something and we are asked about our faith. Do we step up and confess Jesus as our Lord? Or do we hesitate to speak up, and if we are pressed for an answer, what is our response. Do we identify ourselves, or do we follow Peter’s example and shrink back and fail to identify with the Lord and remain silent.
There isn’t any way we can understand the pain, suffering, and pressure Jesus endured as they accused Him of charges so unlike Him and who He was. In verse 65 we are told that Caiaphas, the high priest, “tore his clothes,” which indicated his extreme disgust with the whole situation. We would say Caiaphas was “fit to be tied!”
Then our text tells us about Peter, who is now outside warming himself by the fire of the enemy. The little girl accuses him of being with Jesus, and Peter loudly denies it. Another girl presses the accusation and Peter follows his denial with an oath and a second denial, “I do not know the Man,” he shouts.
When I read that denial by Simon Peter I am forced to ask myself what would I have done? Would I have committed the same denial Peter made? Would I? Would you? I am asking all of us, would we? Think about it. How loyal are we? Ask yourself, as I ask myself, “Would I be brave and loyal enough to say, “I am proud to say I am one of His disciples!”