Prepare to Listen. In a silent stillness, offer this prayer for the world today: You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD do not delay (Psalm70:5b).
Prayerfully Read Matthew 26:57-68
57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. 59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.”’ 62The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ 63But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ 64Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ 65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’ 67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?’
The mockery of Jesus’ trial is clear in Matthew’s account. False accusers recall (and misquote) Jesus’ words about the temple (see John 2:19). That got the religious rulers attention because they were terrified that Jesus would take away their authority which resided in the temple. But, as Caiaphas knew, those words of accusation would never warrant the death penalty Caiaphas wanted. In frustration, he put Jesus under oath, asking him to plainly tell them whether he is or isn’t Messiah. A ‘yes’ response would be all he needed to take Jesus to Pilate, accuse him of sedition and get the death penalty he wanted. Jesus admitted little (“You have said so”) but added words Caiaphas concluded were blasphemous and warranted death according to Jewish law: “But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” He’s quoting a combination of two OT passages—Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110:1. (It’s worth reading them to gain understanding for Caiaphas’ excitement and anger.) Jesus had condemned himself.
In this familiar story, I was intrigued with something that’s often overlooked—Matthew’s brief comment about Peter that has nothing to do with the trial in the house of Caiaphas. Peter “was following at a distance,” seated with the guards outside the trial, waiting “to see how this would end.” Peter, one of Jesus’ inner three, followed at a distance; waited outside the trial. He was there, but he wasn’t there. Jesus was alone, no friends and no defense. Peter remained at a distance, waiting to see how it would end.
Jesus had the wisdom to remain silent when falsely accused and the courage to speak truth into lies when required. How might this guide you in your response to a culture of lies, distortions, injustice, selfishness that continues even during the deadly covid-19 pandemic?
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus, your response when under attack never ceases to amaze. Sadly, often like Peter I follow at a distance, waiting to see what will happen. Grant me courage to stand up for you and follow you more nearly and speak truth into lies. Show me how to follow you today in these unchartered waters of a deadly pestilence. You are our help and our deliverer; O LORD do not delay. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world, courageously following Jesus closely, not at a distance.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.