Published March 13, 2012

Paul's Epistle...
"Peter, James & John"

The first response one may have to Gold City's current song, "Peter, James and John," might be, "What?"  In fact, one blogger, after hearing the song the first time, said something to this effect: "What in the world is that song talking about?"

Well, obviously a lot of people like the song because, as you've heard on the broadcast, it went to number one on the Singing News top tunes chart for March, giving Gold City their first number one song in a dozen years.

But what is the song talking about? The tune certainly is catchy and Gold City delivers it well. But let's not overlook what the song has to say.

The Biblical account upon which the song is based comes from Matthew 26, where the Lord has his "last supper" with the disciples and then goes, with the three title characters, to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. Actually, the song's story involves five characters – Jesus and His betrayer, Judas, as well as the three sleepy but faithful disciples, Peter, James and John.

One Man was praying, three men were sleeping
One man was betraying the sinless Son of God.
They'd left that last supper, gone away from all the others.
Jesus and Judas...Peter, James and John.

Songwriter Dianne Wilkinson says she "wanted to contrast the five principal people on that last supper night that led to the garden of Gethsemane, that awful night. And in my mind, Peter, James and John were the little inner circle who stayed at the garden" with Christ.

In fact, "the names Peter, James and John, in that order, appear repeatedly in the Gospel narratives in such outstanding occasions in Jesus' career as the transfiguration, the raising of Jairus' daughter and the praying in Gethsemane."*

So, why were these three men special?

One reason is because they were "real," and I love that about the Biblical accounts. These men exhibited the same kinds of human traits we have today. Peter was impetuous. At Gethsemane, when the soldiers came with Judas, the betrayer, to arrest the Lord, Peter foolishly swung his sword, wounding a servant — a wound the Lord quickly healed. But, worse, Peter had excitedly promised the Lord he would never forsake Him. And yet, within hours, as the Lord predicted, Peter denied the Lord three times before daybreak.

James was known for his stormy temper, earning him and his brother, John, the nickname (bestowed by the Lord) "Sons of Thunder." Such traits were hardly "Christlike."

But what happened?  The Lord's resurrection changed everything.  Peter went from being the denier to a "rock-solid" leader of the early church. James became another effective witness in the early church, so bold in preaching the Gospel that he became the first apostle to be martyred – put to death by Herod Agrippa about 44 A.D. John, the disciple Jesus loved (John 13:23), was, too, a leader in the early church, wrote some of the best-loved books in the New Testament and was honored by God with his visions of heaven and the end times, recounted in the book of Revelation. Unlike the other apostles (so far as we know), John was an observer at the Cross, where Jesus charged him with taking care of His mother, Mary. John was the only apostle to die of old age rather than being martyred.

All three – Peter, James and John – held to the faith — despite persecution, despite apparent setbacks, despite constant opposition.

So, what does this have to do with us? As the song says,

Looking at the Church now...there are many kinds of Christians.
Who will stand for Peter, James and John?

Gold City's Daniel Riley says when you listen carefully to this song you "ask yourself the question that the song's asking you. It challenges you. [It asks] what kind of Christian are you? Are you like Peter, James and John? Or are you like Judas, just kinda playing the game. It's a great challenge for Christian people today and I think it gives all of us something to think about."

So... When persecution comes (and it will), when the difficulties of this life come against us (and they will), when your faith is challenged by others who want to deny the truth of God's word (and they will), will you stand strong in your faith – as did Peter, James and John? Or, in the face of challenges, will you deny your faith – even if it's only by refusing to stand up for it?

To deny your faith by refusing to stand up for it – to go along simply because it's easy or seemingly futile not to do so – sounds more like that other apostle, Judas, described in the song this way: "One of them was different...never saved and just pretending..."

Are you just pretending to be a Christian? Or does your life and your faith reflect the steadfast and unflinching devotion that Peter, James and John came to exemplify?

Just look around. Never in modern times has it been more difficult to stand our ground on Christian principles in the face of a relentless onslaught by society, media and government — to stand for the inerrant and unchanging truth of God's Holy Word. But never has it been more urgent or more important than now.

- Paul

* "Everyone In the Bible," William P. Barker, p. 280.

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