“Scenes from the passion” for Sunday, March 14, 2021. Photo by Tron Le on Unsplash.
And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. (Mark 14:54)
A crackling blaze in the hearth feels so good on a chilly night. Camping just doesn’t feel right without flames flickering in a fire ring. A stressful day melts away with a glass of wine as a few logs burn in your backyard fire pit.
As he shakes off the shock of Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane, Peter waits just outside the high priest’s house, innocently warming his hands around the fire with the guards. What was going through his mind? Did he regret fleeing the scene just a few moments ago? Did he think he would have another chance to fight alongside his master? Was Peter still determined to die rather than turn his back on Jesus? Was he trying to hear what was going on inside?
“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 3, 2020. Read Exodus 3:1-4 and Psalm 130.
I think I am just as surprised as Moses to find God speaking from a burning bush on Mt. Horeb. It had never happened before. It never happened again, at least not in the bible or anywhere I’ve ever read. But here on the mountain, Moses has a physical encounter with the Lord who comes to save His people long before His birth in Bethlehem to save His people from their sins. Forty years later Moses would tell the people, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24). But not today. Today, “the bush was burning, but it was not consumed” (Ex. 3:3).
I can sit and gaze into a campfire for a long time. It’s so relaxing and peaceful. Until it starts talking to you! Once he knew who it was, Moses was afraid to look (Ex. 3:6).
Why do you suppose God chose to manifest Himself in this way to Moses? Well, for one thing, it certainly fits with the law and gospel message of scripture. Fire can burn and destroy. Fire also produces heat and light. Bad news and good news, which you need to fully get the message of God with us. Yes, a holy God comes to punish sin. He also comes to save us from sin. In that sense, fire captures and reveals the very nature of God who is at the same time the Almighty and the all-merciful.
When John the Baptist came preparing the way of the Lord, he said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11,12). That ancient fire was returning for both salvation and judgment.
The flames of our Advent candles are a great reminder of these moments. I’m very thankful for the warmth and brightness Jesus brings to what would otherwise be a cold and darkened world!
Thank you, Lord, for the fire of your presence in my life to save, purify and light the way. Amen.
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:7)
Natural disasters, taking their toll on the earth, are always portents of the end, for this world as we know it will not last forever. Violent hail storms move across the heartland destroying crops. Fires burn out of control, wiping out millions of acres of forested areas. When these things happen, there are always lives that are lost, too. Blood is always mixed in.
Just as we do, the created world around us waits and yearns to be set free from the calamity that sin has caused. It will happen. We just don’t know when. We don’t know when Christ will return. No one does.
But these kinds of events are signs that there is an end and that he will come and meant to move us to repentance. They are meant to wake us up and focus our attention on Jesus who is the only one who can rescue us from a world falling apart at the seams.
Do you need a wake-up call? Probably. Most likely you take a lot for granted. Jesus loves you too much to let you do that. He gives us birds and flowers to remind us we don’t have to worry about what we’ll eat or wear. He gives us storms and fires to remind us we need a Savior. And he gives us his word to remind us that he is the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Thanks for the wake-up call, Lord. I needed that. Amen.