On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Too Near the Flame
July 13, 2014
They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (Mark 14:53,54, NIV)
When Jesus met Peter for the first time, He changed his name from Simon (John 1:41,42).
We often think of Jesus’ authority in reference to the miracles He did, His insightful teaching, and His power over death. But there is an additional way to look at Jesus’ authority — the authority to give us a new identity.
He did that with Simon. Just imagine telling someone the first time you meet them, “I don’t want to call you by the name your mother gave you, or the name others have called you all your life. I’m giving you a new name.”
We would look askance at such a person, either turning away from them or saying indignantly, “Who are you to change my name?”
But Jesus acted with a clear intention toward Peter as He does with us. The underlying common word for Peter in the language spoken then is “Rock.” Jesus called Simon by the term Rock. Why did Jesus do that?
Jesus was out to build His Church — not a structure of wood, stone, brick and glass; but a structure of people. He himself is the Cornerstone.
Peter, along with the other apostles and prophets, became the foundation stones upon which the whole building rests. We now are the living stones, built into that edifice (Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5). The purpose of a foundation stone is to bear the weight that will be placed on it.
Jesus gave Peter a new identity because He saw the fisherman’s potential. No one else had seen it. Jesus had faith in Peter before Peter had faith in Him. And that’s the way it is with us. We often talk about having faith in Jesus, and can easily forget that He has far greater faith in us. He believed that Peter would become a great fisher of men (Mark 1:17)!
Think of that as we come to this moment in Peter’s walk with Jesus. Immediately preceding Peter’s presence in the courtyard of the high priest was his experience in Gethsemane. He fell asleep three times. He couldn’t rouse himself to stay awake and pray with Jesus no matter how much Jesus wanted him to do that.
Jesus specifically told Peter to pray lest he fail (14:38). Peter only roused himself when the arresting contingent came from the religious leadership, resorting to violence in an attempted defense of Jesus (John 18:10).
We find Peter now, like a moth being drawn toward the flame. He wants nearness to Jesus, but he is also going to be badly singed. Better if he had heeded Jesus’ counsel in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Have you found yourself similarly situated as Peter? You know the Lord loves you; you know He believes in you. But you’ve had some failures. Like Peter, you’ve adamantly expressed your loyalty to Jesus (Matthew 26:33) — perhaps even setting yourself up as more committed than all the others.
We capture Peter warming himself by the fire at the precipice of his failure. He didn’t know that in the coming moments he would fail terribly. We can be grateful that Jesus did not fail Peter; nor will He fail you.
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark