Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:36-38)
Why did Jesus challenge Peter's allegiance?Jesus knew that Peter's commitment and love for God were not strong enough to follow Jesus throughout his coming ordeal. Peter wasn't ready. Peter still had some learning to do. And Jesus wanted to promote his learning process.
You see, Peter was confident of his faith and commitment to Jesus. Such confidence in itself is deceiving. Confidence about our faith and commitment to God is an oxymoron to true faith. True faith in God means to rely upon God. Confidence in our faith means we think we are strong.
Peter was confident that he was strong in his faith, and his faith could not be shaken. Such confidence is actually a pitfall. It is a handicap for our spiritual life.
Yes, Peter thought he was so dedicated to Jesus. But Jesus understood this confidence was a handicap. Peter had some additional testing in order to gain his real strength.
That strength comes from God. This means relying upon the Supreme Being to be the source of our strength. We cannot produce this on our own.
Peter's confidence was tested by Jesus' arrest. During Jesus' confinement and trial, Peter was asked three times by those who thought they had recognized Peter as being one of Jesus' disciples.
But Peter denied it all three times.
With each denial, Peter became more and more disgusted with himself. Peter had thought he was so dedicated. But it turned out that Peter was not that dedicated to Jesus. He wasn't ready to risk his life for Jesus - yet.
We would later find that indeed Peter did sacrifice his life in the service of Jesus and God. Part of Peter's courage was built upon the learning experience here in this event with Jesus.
This was a big part of this event with Jesus. It was a teaching moment for many.
Did Jesus' crucifixion cleanse our sins?Many teach that Jesus' crucifixion was designed to cleanse our sins. Where did they get this idea?
Some insist that the first book of John indicates this. But this would be an exaggeration. Let's get the context of the key verses used by some to insist that not only is Jesus' crucifixion for cleaning our sins, but also that Jesus is God.
At one time, Jesus was also a follower - a follower of John the Baptist. We know that Jesus received baptism by John the Baptist and that Jesus also baptized his students. This illustrates that baptism was a ceremony representing that a student would follow the teacher's teachings.
As John pointed out when he baptized Jesus, Jesus was not an ordinary student. Here is what John stated about his beloved and exalted student, Jesus, translated according to the Lost Gospels of Jesus translation:
They asked him, “Who are you then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the LORD.’ ” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not Anointed by God [Messiah, Christ], nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do know not. He is the one who comes after me, the binding of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This took place in Bethany on the other side of the river Jordan, where John was baptizing. The following day, he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who removes the darkness of the material world. This is the one I was referring to when I said, ‘A man with more authority comes after me because he has surpassed me.’ I did not recognize him, but he became known to Israel through my baptizing with water.” And John testified: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I did not recognize him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit comes down and remains is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen and testified that this is the Representative of God.” (John 1:21-34)While the word "lamb" may be correctly derived from the Greek word ἀμνός (amnos), John the Baptist is clearly saying that Jesus is the "Lamb of God." He is not saying that Jesus is God.
And while it appears that John did not conduct this form of worship himself, offering lamb to the Supreme Being as an offering was discussed throughout the Old Testament:
If he offers a lamb, he is to present it before the LORD. (Lev 3:7)Furthermore, John the Baptist did not say that Jesus is God and that God "died" for our sins.
Neither did John eat lamb - or any meat for that matter. He was not even referring to Jesus as a lamb that would be slaughtered. Rather, he was referring to Jesus as being God's servant. A lamb was considered docile and obeying.
The phrase word "who takes away" comes from the Greek word αἴρω (airō) which has a secondary meaning of to "remove" or "carry off, carry away with one." However, its primary means is "to raise up, elevate, lift up" according to the lexicon.
What is sin?"Sin" is being translated from the Greek word ἁμαρτία (hamartia), which means, according to the lexicon, "to miss the mark," "to err, be mistaken" or "to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong" or "to wander from the law of God, violate God's law." Thus in the translation above, "darkness" is used because this composes the entirety of these points.
Now "of the world!" is being translated from κόσμος (kosmos), which can mean, according to the lexicon, "an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government", ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars," "'the heavenly hosts', as the ornament of the heavens," "the world, the universe", "the "circle of the earth, the earth" or "the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family."
If sin means to stray or "wander from the path of righteousness" or "wander from the law of God" - which we could summarize as "wandering from God" - then how can anyone remove that?
Are people not wandering from God now? Did Jesus' body's dying on the cross make it so no one is sinning now and no one is wandering from God's laws now?
Certainly not. Most of us in this world are still sinning and wandering from God. Jesus has not removed sinning from the world.
Does this mean the scripture is wrong? No. It means simply that the interpretation of those verses is wrong.
First, we must understand what sinning essentially is. What is the essence of "God's laws" and what is "the path of righteousness" that sinning means to wander from? When we think of "God's laws," we must consider Moses' teachings, as Jesus taught. The core "God's law" that he laid down:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:4)
"Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut. 11:1)Keeping God's "requirements," "decrees," "laws" and "commands" clearly means doing God's will. It means living in such a way that is pleasing to God. Now how would a person "wander" from this "law" of loving God and doing God's will?
Is this about becoming saved?The desire to being saved is a self-centered desire. And self-centeredness is diametrically opposite of love for God. Love for God means to give our lives to God, and live for God. It means to care for what God wants, and want to please the Supreme Being.
Living a self-centered life means to live to please oneself. It means to do whatever pleases us. This is essentially what sin is.
So we know that "sinning" comes from a particular consciousness of being self-centered. How can Jesus' crucifixion "remove" this?
Rather, Jesus' life and his sacrifice can help us change our consciousness, from one of being self-centered to one of being God-centered. This is because Jesus' acts were all centered around pleasing God:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matt. 26:39)This is how can Jesus' teachings and his activities - such as his allowing his body to be murdered - can change our consciousness from being self-centered to being God-centered. Because Jesus had the ultimate love for God. He is the perfect loving servant of God, and he is God's representative.
Jesus was able to change the consciousness of those who listened carefully to his teachings, followed his teachings, and also understood that he was willing to sacrifice his physical body for those teachings. These actions all expressed Jesus' love for God.
And this was Jesus' primary teaching:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)So his teacher John was not talking about Jesus removing the sins of the world as if no one will sin again, or be responsible for their sins after he was crucified. People are still sinning, and people are still paying the consequences of their sins. This is why so many people are in jail: Because they are paying the consequences of their sins. Can you imagine what an absurd world it would be if suddenly people could rob, cheat, steal and kill and not have to suffer any consequences?
Jesus' life and teachings are very clear for the serious student. Jesus was teaching us to love God and to change our consciousness from being self-centered to being humbly God-centered.
And this was Jesus' message to Peter.
Those exalted citizens of the spiritual realm all feel they are the least committed person and that everything they have comes from the Supreme Being. They feel that God and His children are far more advanced in their faith than they are.
Here in the physical world, we all think that we are the best person and that others are not as good as we are. This is the consciousness of the physical world: Diametrically opposite of the consciousness of the spiritual realm where love for God prevails.
This is why John the Baptist described himself as teaching, "'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" This phrase means to live in such a way that is pleasing to God: "Make straight the way" means to straighten out or steer our path - εὐθύνω euthynō - being translated to "make straight" means to steer a straight course. So "'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" means to steer our lives towards God - and live in a way that pleases the Supreme Being.
Jesus' life and teachings do have the ability to save us from our sins. Jesus' life and teachings can change our consciousness from being self-centered to being God-centered. From loving ourselves above all to loving God - Our Best Friend and true Soul Mate - above all.