"As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen" (Luke 19:36,37. NIV).
At this time of year, our thoughts are easily turned to various pictures of the last days of Jesus on earth. We can visualize his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with Peter and the other disciples observing this happy event. I think you can also see in your minds eye the somewhat close knit group gathering around him for that last Passover meal. Later, there is an incredible tension to be felt when one views the moments before Christ's arrest, as Judas approaches Jesus and then kisses him on the cheek as a sign of recognition. But the moment of moments is that instant after Peter had spoken so strongly for the third time, denying his master, and the rooster crowed. For a very long second, Jesus and Peter looked into each others eyes, and that which passed between them was not soon forgotten .
We have all had similar things happen to us as we have been found out - from our mothers asking if our hand is in the cookie jar, to knowing that we really could have done just a little bit better at that project at work, to realizing that the police car coming up behind you with flashing lights is not going to pass you by - he really is after you!
How do these events relate to what we read in Luke and in each of the other Gospels regarding these last hours of our Lord? There were just a few hours between what happened when the crowds so enthusiastically welcomed Jesus by paving the road with their clothes, to the moment when they now became the vicious, nasty persons who were crying for his blood and life. And the number of hours between Peter's avowal of discipleship and his pronounced denial were even less. So, again, how do we connect our sinking heart feelings, recognizing our sin, to that of the happy throng that welcomed Jesus?
I have to ask myself, how many time have I been guilty of being enthralled with who Jesus is, acknowledging Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and within too short a span of time, my actions are not proving that I belong to Jesus. Isn't that what occurred to the crowds? One moment affirming, the next condemning. I suspect that each of us have been guilty of this perhaps more often than we would like to admit. And, it may leave us feeling like a failure as far as our development as a believer in Christ. So, what do we do about it? What should we do now?
First, let me remind you about Peter. Following that moment when Jesus looked deep inside of him, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Such was his shame and humiliation at having denied his Lord and Master that he was overcome with grief. But, in those next hours and days, such a change came over him that he became a powerful influence on the church. His message was one of what God's power could do, in transforming a person from what he once was to become what God wanted for that individual. He had a missionary heart, and it drove him to proclaim the gospel of truth to many people. He also preached that we should be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:16 NIV).
This tells us that living each day caught with 'our hand in the cookie jar', is not acceptable by God's expectation that we are to be holylike him. Again, the question-what are we to do about it? How do we get from being 'not acceptable' to "being holy?"
We need to go back to Peter. Even though for some time he had been a disciple - a follower of Christ - he failed to acknowledge Jesus in those critical days. But, at that crisis moment, at the moment of his looking into the eyes of Jesus, he ran out and wept his tears of repentance. He was sorry for the denial, for turning his back on Jesus. As those next few days progressed, Peter once again was part of the group that saw Jesus, heard him speak, and watched him ascend into heaven. Such a transformation occurred that the whole world has been impacted.
As we engage ourselves in the events of these sorrowful and exceeding happy days, we should remind ourselves that Christ calls us to live for him everyday. The piety we exhibit today should not be too different from what we demonstrate in thirty or ninety days from now. Let the cloak and robe we willingly lay down on the road for the Master at this time of year gladly be placed in His service six months from now. Do you and I need to repent because of what we have not done, or because of what we have done? The obvious answer is yes, we need to repent for both.
But we can rest assured that God will forgive us anytime. And He will forgive us many times. Repentance, as with Peter, means that we have turned from our sin, and turned to doing what is right, or being holy. Or, if we do not repent, we will be just as the crowds were at that first triumphant entry-today welcoming the Saviour as the Messiah, but then calling for his death soon afterwards by continuing in my sinful ways. I don't want to waste the cloak of my life by continuing in disobedience because that is not the salvation Jesus came to bring.
Peter was changed into a great man after being found out. You and I know that as we are sinners, and need to be transformed by forgiveness. May we go through the days of this Easter season, repentant and forgiven, and continue living a life of faith each day for the rest of our lives.
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