The notes this week have been provided by Lauren. The passage can be read here.
C S Lewis refers to something he calls the “Law of Undulation” in the Screwtape Letters. He applies the law to most things about humanity – our emotions, our work, our friends, and most importantly our relationship with God. And the “law” is basically this: there will be “peaks” and there will be “troughs”. That is humanity “undulates” or changes or has ups and downs.
Today’s passage starts at a peak. Jesus has just declared to his followers that they will eat and drink at his table and sit on thrones in his Kingdom.
But almost immediately Jesus turns to Simon Peter and talks with him about the “trough” coming up. Peter is going to face a difficult situation. Satan is out to get Peter. And how will Peter deal with it? Well he’s going to get it wrong, and he’s going to screw up.
I imagine we’ve all had “peak” times – where you’ve just felt the richness of God’s presence with you, or have been clearly able to see God’s hand of blessing on your life. Unless you’ve very different to me, I’d expect you’ve also had trough times – times when you can’t make out what God’s plan might be, when you can’t see where he could be in your circumstances, when you are faced with a trial, when you get it wrong.
Jesus knows about Peter’s upcoming trough. What does he think about it?
We see Jesus tender love:
- He doesn’t gloss over Peter’s failure – to deceive Peter as to its significance
- He gives him advance warning, information to help him understand how to respond afterwards
- He prays for Peter. God hates sin, but he loves Peter. He prays that Peter won’t be undone by this failure. That his faith won’t fail.
- And Peter won’t be undone. Jesus tells him what to do after he turns back. Peter is welcome back before he even commits the sin.
Jesus’ love for us is the same. He knows our “troughs” too, and he won’t let us go either:
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27)
Jesus death isn’t reserved for people who live on the peak. It is also for people currently at the bottom of the trough. He has always known of our failure – and he is speaking on our behalf: that our faith may not fail, that we will emerge from the other side. And when we do he says “strengthen your brothers”.
The upcoming period was going to be difficult for all the disciples. Jesus warns them too. Previously they had gone out without taking anything with them and God had provided. This was going to be a tough period. Now was the time for being prepared.
I’m not sure that Jesus really wanted swords particularly – but he wanted his disciples to be prepared for a difficult time. When we enter challenging seasons – if you can see “trough” challenges approaching – let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s equip ourselves with the armour of God (Ephesian’s 6:10-18).
Lord we wonder at your tender love that meets us where we are at. Thank you that you are not willing to leave us as you find us, but that you work on us to refine us. Help us to take up the armour you provide – that in the difficult times of life, we might not fail you.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)