Peter sat restless in the courtyard. His eyes shifted between the stone ground and the door they had taken his Lord through to be questioned. As the minutes stretched on, his impatience increased. He longed for this night to end. He stared at the door, expecting Jesus to come through at any moment. This was all just a misunderstanding. A young woman’s voice broke into this thoughts – “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter felt his face grow hot as soon as she spoke the words. He was baffled. How in the world does she know who I am? Hoping to find a more secluded place, he started toward the gate but not quickly enough. Another girl stood in his path. “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Her finger was pointed right at Peter, and her exclamation invited more people to notice him. I have to get out of here … before they all realize I’ve been with Jesus.
Whether visiting with a long-time friend or meeting someone for the first time, I rejoice when I encounter a person who’s been with Jesus. By this I mean more than having a cheerful disposition or an outgoing personality. Rather, in conversation with them my focus is redirected towards Christ, or I see afresh the need to repent in a specific area of my life. Sometimes it’s a simple word of encouragement or their calming presence in a time of pain. As we talk together or just enjoy one another’s company, it becomes quite clear – you’ve been with Jesus, friend.
Indeed, our words and actions, our participation in the life and ministry of the Church, our time of communion with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word will grow us as followers of Christ. These things reveal the foundation upon which our life is built: identifying with Christ alone and loving Him above all else.
In the company of the Jewish leaders, Jesus did not mince His words when he answered an expert in the law on what the greatest commandment is. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
When the whole of who we are is directed towards Christ and loving Him, we soon realize that being with Jesus has more to do with identification with Christ than just being a nice person. The weight of this reality – of identifying with our Savior – sets in when we read Jesus’ words in Mark’s gospel –
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’ (Mark 8:34-37)
To be identified with Christ is no trivial matter. Perhaps it is when we really reflect on the weight of following Jesus and loving Him above all else that those words – you’ve been with Jesus – no longer sound like such a comforting compliment. Perhaps like the apostle Peter, those words can sound more like a stinging accusation. Perhaps we don’t want people to know we’ve been with Jesus.
Overwhelmed by fear of discovery, Peter distrusted people’s remarks about his identity. Knowing what had just happened to his Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter worried the same may happen to him. What will they do to ME? … They’ve already arrested my master; how will they treat me if someone turns me in or accuses me of blasphemy?
While I do not currently face threats of death or persecution for believing in Christ, Peter’s story is still a sobering account. Though circumstances and centuries separate us, Peter and I both live under the Lordship of Christ and identify with Him. And like Peter, I too give in to fear and am not always eager or willing to identify with Christ. I allow fear of what others will think of me guide what I say, especially in difficult or uncomfortable situations. Self-preservation quickly becomes important when I don’t want to offend or upset someone. With my words or actions, in the company of others and in private, I find myself afraid to count the cost of identifying with Jesus.
Matthew’s account of the story closes with Peter swearing he did not know Jesus and cursing those who recognized his Galilean accent. In the pursuit of self-preservation and plagued by fear, Peter did what he swore to his Lord he would never do – before the cock crowed, Peter denied Jesus three times. Filled with bitter grief, Peter ran out of the city and wept. He had disowned His Lord – the One he had walked with for 3 years; the One he knew to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God; the One whose approaching death (and subsequent resurrection!) would restore this denying disciple to a right relationship with God.
Christ came to inhabit and identify with our humanity and turn us back to the Father. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, we are gifted new life in Christ.
This life is one of identifying with Jesus and proclaiming, “look what the Lord has done!”
Peter’s story testifies to this very transformation. The same scared disciple became a bold leader of the early church. To councils of Jewish leaders and crowds of Gentiles, Peter declared the name of Christ and God’s gift of salvation. Peter had been with Jesus, and his life would never be the same. No longer deterred by fear, Peter was grounded in His risen Savior and ready to tell people, I have been with Jesus!
When I reflect on Peter’s story and think of friends who have been with Jesus, I can’t help but give thanks. When I look at them, I don’t see perfect people. Rather, I see brothers and sisters who say yes to Jesus, no matter what the cost; people whose lives have been and continue to be transformed by the Holy Spirit; people whose love for Christ brings forth praise, this joyful eagerness to speak of all that the Lord has done.
As we walk with Christ, as we count the cost of identifying with our Savior, as we love our Lord above everything else, may we echo the praises of the psalmist David –
“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:1-5)
As a volunteer with Moody Publishers, I read and write reviews for various books and hope a title will spark your interest. (There is certainly no obligation to purchase the book; I simply want to pass along ideas for your reading pleasure.)
This month’s title is Jesus by A.W. Tozer. Click to read my review!