Love, the Wellspring of Courage
Many saints have made an earnest attempt to follow Christ, only to fall short and grow weary in the pursuit. The reason for their failure is often that they are relying upon their own human strength to follow Yahshua. Personal resolve and self-discipline are the wells they are drawing from. These are insufficient, however, to take them where they desire to go.
In the lives of Peter and John, we are given a picture of two men drawing strength from two different sources. The outcome for each man is quite different.
Peter, in his early walk with Christ, is a clear example of a man who is following Christ, relying upon his own discipline and resolve to get him through. It took courage to be a disciple of Christ. The 12 disciples were well aware of the enmity of the Chief Priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. They understood that many would like to see Yahshua dead. As Yahshua’s closest associates, this put their lives in peril. Courage was required for these men to continue on with Yahshua.
Shortly before His crucifixion, Yahshua explained to the disciples what was about to befall Him. He told them that they would all fall away because of Him. Peter, confident in his resolve and ability to stay the course, told Yahshua that even if all others fell away, he would remain steadfast (Matthew 26:33).
This was a very cocky statement for Peter to make. Peter was sitting at the table with eleven other men who had followed Christ for as long as he had and he was in effect saying, “My faithfulness exceeds all of theirs, for even if they fail you, I never will.”
There is no doubt that Peter was a man of a very strong will. He was also a courageous man. He was willing to fight for Christ and put his life on the line for Him. When the mob came to arrest Yahshua, it was Peter who drew the sword and lopped off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. Peter’s courage sprang from his own strength, however. His courage was based upon his reason.
Peter believed that Yahshua was the Son of God. However, he failed to grasp what Christ’s true mission was. He believed Yahshua would restore the kingdom of David. He did not understand that Yahshua came to destroy the dominion of Satan over mankind, nor did he perceive that this overthrow would require Yahshua to lay down His life.
Peter was courageous as long as he understood what was happening. I don’t think that he ever truly understood, before the crucifixion, what would transpire. When Peter saw Yahshua arrested, he was shaken. He still had some courage, however, and followed the mob to the court of the Chief Priest. He had seen so many miracles that I am sure he expected to see yet another one. When Yahshua submitted to being beaten, spat upon, and mocked, Peter’s reason and courage faltered.
This was not something Peter had foreseen. To him, it looked like Yahshua was being overcome by evil men. How could God be overcome by man? He began to doubt Yahshua and consequently he felt vulnerable and helpless. When those with him in the courtyard began to ask him if he was a follower of Yahshua, Peter was in confusion and had no courage left. He denied Christ three times.
Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Yahshua had said, “Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Two things occur when we follow Christ out of the strength of our will. When we are successful and perform some accomplishment in our pursuit of Christ, we will become puffed up and full of pride, after all, we were the one who did this thing. However, if we fail to accomplish that which we are resolved to do, we become devastated. The failure, likewise, is ours.
This is what Peter experienced. He was devastated. When the cock crowed, he remembered Yahshua’s word to him. He realized that Yahshua knew what was going to happen all along. He had prophesied it. Peter still didn’t fully understand why Yahshua was undergoing suffering, but he realized that it didn’t catch Yahshua by surprise. He had spoken to the disciples previously about what must transpire.
Peter realized that he had failed to do what he had so fervently resolved. His bold words were just an empty boast. His confidence was shaken. His best effort was not enough to keep him faithful to Christ.
There was another disciple, however, who remained near to Yahshua. This was John. John wasn’t known for his strong will. Rather, he was known for another trait, his love.
John, in his gospel, refers to himself as the disciple whom Yahshua loved. He was part of the three disciples who were most intimate with Yahshua. He was often described as being close by Yahshua’s side and even leaned on Yahshua’s breast (John 13:23). If one of the other disciples had a question to ask of Yahshua, they would sometimes ask John to present it to Him (John 13:24-25).
John loved Yahshua passionately and he was aware of Yahshua’s love for him. By declaring himself “the disciple whom Yahshua loved,” John was in effect saying, “I know Yahshua loves me.” It was his understanding of Yahshua’s love for him that caused such a deep love to arise within his own heart. John acknowledges this in his first epistle to the church.
I John 4:19
We love, because He first loved us.
This profound truth will be important for us to keep in mind as we go along. As we see how great a source of motivation love is, we will naturally ask how we can be increased in love. The answer is that we must better understand how deeply Christ loves us. Love begets love. Passion begets passion. As we come to comprehend Christ’s great love for us, we will find a reciprocal love arising within our own hearts.
John did not fall away from Christ or deny Him, but, due to his deep love for Yahshua, he remained as close as possible.
And Simon Peter was following Yahshua, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Yahshua into the court of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought in Peter.
John is speaking of himself here as the other disciple known to the High Priest. He and Peter were the only two disciples mentioned as being near Yahshua at his questioning before the High Priest. Unlike Peter, it wasn’t discipline and determination that brought John here, it was love. He wanted to remain close to his beloved friend. It was impossible for him to be elsewhere.
At Yahshua’s crucifixion a number of the women who followed Him were present, but only one of the twelve disciples. This was John. His heart of love would not allow him to be separated from his loving master, even through a most unbearable time. At his crucifixion, Yahshua committed two of the people who loved Him the most to one another.
When Yahshua therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
I am certain that Mary never lacked anything while she was in John’s household. John’s care for her flowed from the wellspring of his love for Yahshua. In loving and caring for Mary, John was expressing his love for Yahshua. Love can be extravagant, it surpasses all other sources of motivation. Paul spoke to the Corinthian church of the excellence of love.
I Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
When will-power and resoluteness failed Peter, love did not fail John. John was able to remain by Yahshua’s side, bearing and enduring all things, due to love. Verse 4 tells us that love does not brag, nor act arrogantly. It was not necessary for John to boast that he would never forsake Yahshua. John was constrained and controlled by love. His actions would merely reflect his love for Christ.
When Yahshua was resurrected and the empty tomb was reported by the women, we are told that Peter and John raced to the tomb to inspect it.
And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Yahshua loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb. And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
Here again, we see the excellence of love. We are told that when John looked into the tomb and beheld it empty, that he saw and believed. Peter merely marveled. Going back to Corinthians we are told that “love believes all things.”” It was love that allowed John to believe while others doubted.
In the 21st chapter of John we are told of another encounter between the disciples and Yahshua after His resurrection. Peter decided to go fishing and the other disciples joined him. While they were a little ways from shore, Yahshua called to them, the disciples not knowing who He was. In this encounter, John recognized Yahshua and told the other disciples. Only after John told him, did Peter recognize that it was Yahshua.
That disciple therefore whom Yahshua loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
Again, John’s perceptiveness can be attributed to his love. He was always hoping for an encounter with Yahshua and was quick to believe. First Corinthians tells us that “love believes all things, love hopes all things.”
Love is certainly an attribute of those who make up the Bride of Christ. It is arguably the greatest attribute. It will be impossible to embrace the cross and walk where Christ would have us to walk without love. We will fail to believe, fail to hope, fail to endure, fail to bear all things, without love.In the preceding examples it would seem that God is striving to reveal to us a profound truth. Over and over we see Peter and John facing the same tests, but with vastly different results. What Peter was unable to accomplish with human strength, will-power, and resolve, John accomplished with love.
I heard a pastor, who had performed many marriage ceremonies, state that he had never seen an unattractive bride. He said they were all made radiant by the love that was evident upon their faces. Even so, the most attractive feature of the Bride of Christ is her evident love for the Bridegroom. It is this love that allows her to advance where others will not go. It is this love that leads her from the Outer Court, through the Holy Place, into the Most Holy Place.
Those who are of the Bride have seen the joy that is set before them. This joy is Christ. He is the passion and love of the Bride. He is her possession, her inheritance. Her love will keep her in readiness and in expectation of His appearing. Like John, she will not be able to be anywhere else, but at His side.
Love is therefore essential, for Yahshua will lead His Bride through wilderness places as He prepares her. Even as a butterfly begins as a caterpillar, but is transformed in the cocoon, the Bride will be transformed as she allows her love for Christ to lead her through wilderness paths.