It seemed as though he had been walking for years. The road was very busy with travelers going home from the Passover activities. He walked quickly and would smile as he passed people, wondering if any recognized him. He hadn’t bathe in weeks and must have looked grimy and worn. His beard was long, his face was dusty, and his clothes were dirty and torn. But he went on with determination to get home, back to the town he grew up in, back to a place where he knew there were people who needed him right now and people he needed to be with.
The people he passed could not tell that he was a chosen disciple of the Lord. They could not tell that he had just been rescued from death by an Angel of God. They could not tell that this lonely looking man had witness many things that many people never have seen. All they could tell is that the man was in a hurry to get to where ever he was going. He walked on with purpose.
Several days later this man who had escaped certain death, this man we know as Peter, found the one he was looking for sitting on a hill side silently looking out over the Sea of Galilee. At first the man did not notice Peter as he walked toward him. But then the man saw him and starred for a moment in disbelief. Then he stood up and ran towards him. As they met each other they embraced for a long time. Neither said anything, they were just so happy to see and hold each other again. They had known each other for a lifetime. Growing up together, working together and becoming disciples together. Still, this moment was hard because as they held each other there was someone else who wasn’t there and they both missed that person so very much. That person was now dead and lying buried in the earth. That person was James. It was John, the brother of James that Peter found sitting on the hill side looking over at the sea.
Even with all the miracles that they both had witnessed, even with all the miracles that they both had preformed, even with all the joy that they had in their hearts for the coming Kingdom, even with all this, this moment in time was still very hard for them to deal with. They knew that some day their friend would be raised again. They knew that some day they would hear him laugh again. They knew that some day they would be able to hug him and feel his warmth. But that day would not come for many years and for now they both would need to go on without James there.
It was only a couple weeks ago when the three of them had come together. It had been some time since they had last seen each other. Peter was living along the coast. But the Passover was coming and it provided an opportunity for all of them to be together in Jerusalem. They were glad to see each other and to hear about what was happening in different parts of the country. The night before James was arrested they had spent some time together laughing, praying, talking and enjoying being together once again.
But the next day brought unexpected events. Herod took James into custody. The Jews were demanding his death for teaching blasphemy. All the believers that were in Jerusalem were hoping that James would be released and they then could continue with the Passover activities. But then the dreadful news came. John was numb when he first heard it. James had been killed with a sword.
The hardest thing that John had ever done in his life was to have to bury his older brother. When he first arrived at the place where they had executed him, he saw the body and there was blood everywhere. The body of his older brother lay there on the ground very still. The head was separate from the body and had been kicked around by the guards. It was hard to recognize. The eyes on the head were wide open and they stared blankly at John. The guards demanded that they quickly clean up the mess. John had some help as he gathered the pieces together and wrapped them up in a blanket.
They would bring the body to a nearby home of a believer, clean it, anoint it with spices, wrap it up in linen and then carry it to the place of burial to bury it quickly. John was numb through this whole process, just doing what needed to be done trying not to let his grief overcome him. All the while he hadn’t notice that his dear friend Peter had not been there.
It was then that he heard the news. Peter had also been taken into custody and was now under heavy guard. Things did not look good. The Jews had tasted the blood of James and they wanted more. Herod was happy to please them and now they were looking for John. These three disciples, Peter James and John were very powerful witnesses of the ministry of Christ. They had been there. They had seen and were able to testify to things that no other man could testify to. Many people believed because of their testimony. So the Jews wanted them all taken out of the way.
The believers in Jerusalem encouraged John to flee the city. John did not want to go. This was not what he was thinking was going to happen this morning when he woke up. This was not where he wanted to be right now. If only he had his older brother with him so that he could turn to him for comfort. James always seemed to know what to do. But his brother lay under the dirt in the ground in front of him. All that was left of him were a few personal possessions that John now decided to take and bring them back to the place where they had grown up together.
And that is where Peter found him. John had come to this spot on the hillside where they could see the sea during the day and the stars at night. It was a quiet place where he would come with James and talk about everything going on. They would share their deepest thoughts here while beholding the creation all around them. John’s thoughts went back to the sea and the hours he would spend with his brother fishing the sea. He could hear the sound of the oars splashing through the water. He could hear the voice of his brother singing songs of hope. He could feel the joy that they felt when the catch was good and he remembered the frustration that they shared when the nets came up empty. He remembered how excited he was to tell James about the man that he met in the wilderness. A man he knew to be the one that God sent. He was the Messiah that both he and James would talk about while they were growing up. But these precious moments that he had shared with James now only existed in his memory.
John step back and looked at his friend Peter. They read each others eyes as they searched to understand all that had happened. In Peters mind he should have been dead right now. He had been in a completely hopeless situation. Herod was so determine to kill him that he assigned 16 soldiers to watch over him day and night. He was chained to two of them all the time. There was no escape. And yet for some reason, God sent an Angel to deliver him. Why was he delivered and yet James was not? Only God knows the answer, but there was no doubt in the mind of Peter or John that God is very much in control.
How difficult life must have been to endure for these two disciples. Unlike us who walk by faith – these two were eye witnesses to the majesty of Christ. They had spent hours together with him. They were there when the water was turned to wine, they were there when the fish and bread fed thousands of people, they were there when Jesus walked on water, they were there when Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, they were there when the little girl was brought back to life from the dead; they were there on the mountain when the voice – unlike any other voice that has ever been heard by man – the voice spoke of the much loved son. They had both run together to the grave of Jesus only to find it empty. They were there when he later appeared and showed his wounds. They were there when he was taken up into the Heaven right before their eyes. They walked by sight. They knew that everything we know by faith was absolutely true.
And yet they had to accept the pattern of this world. It is a world where men persecute those that practice righteousness, it is a world where men speak evil of powers that they choose not to see, it is a world where evil often wins and death causes pain. It is a world where life isn’t always easy and horrible things happen to people. How hard it must have been for them when men turned aside from the testimony that they gave? How hard it must have been for them to listen as men mocked the message.
There was a time when they were ready to call down fire from heaven to destroy all the unbelievers. But not any more, they had changed. Jesus had taught them well, and instead of seeking vengeance and punishment on those who sought to kill them for what they believed, Peter and Johns writing are filled with care and compassion for the brethren. They had learned first hand what love is. Peter would write of temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. John would write that every man that loves is born of God for God is love.
Peter, James and John were also witnesses to the agony in the garden. As Jesus was coming to grips with all that he was about to suffer, they were there and saw their savior and friend trembling before them. They learned then that the price that was paid was very difficult. They could see the anguish in his face; they held him as he shook. They tried to be there for him when he asked them to say awake with him. They each still felt guilty for not being able to give him what he needed at that moment in time. They could still hear him crying in the distance. Jesus had been given the power to destroy his enemies, he could have call down fire from heaven on them, and his angels were ready to strike out against those who would come to take him.
But Peter and John learned from that experience that even though the event looked like evil had gotten the victory that day, that even though it looked like the kings of the earth plotted and were victorious against the anointed one and even though it seemed like everything that they believed in was coming to an end. Peter and John could now see that God was very much in control of that moment. And our God, our Father willingly let go of that which was most precious in His sight. He willingly let the wicked bruise and beat his only son to death. He willingly offered His own son as a sacrifice. He was in control, paying a high price for our sins.
The amazing thing is that Peter and John later would reach out to these same men who laid their hands on Christ and crucified him; they reached out to these same men and begged them to repent and turn to God. They begged them not to be deceived by the pattern of the world around them. Just because every day looks the same, just because the sun rises up and sets and the wind blows, and the rain comes. Just because it looks like life goes on with or without God. Just because you may not be able to see, it does not mean that God is not in control. He is not only in control but His purpose is right on schedule.
It is really sad when men choose not to see and they turn away. To some the Kingdom is just a dream, but some day we will see it come to pass. Some day when we are wiser, when the world is older, when we have learned. Some day life will be fairer and greed will not pay. Some day men will be kinder, and fear won’t divide us, and liars won’t hurt us.
Children will be able to play in the streets, and houses will not be locked. We will no longer worry about having enough money to pay the bills or to feed our families. We will no longer fear those dreadful moments that some families face and the empty pain that is left after tragedy strikes. Our bodies will stay young, healthy and strong. Living will no longer be vain. There will no longer be poor and starving while the rich and full pretend not to see. Terrorism will be a thing of the past and we will be able to travel safely in any part of the earth. Men will no longer bow down and pray and then rise up and kill. Everyone will know who is the Messiah and all will see him.
Some day the Millennium will come and this earth will be healed.
For those of us who mourn those that have fallen asleep, we too believe that some day our friend will be raised again. We believe that some day we will hear them laugh again. We believe that some day we will be able to hug them once again and feel their warmth.
Until then, there will be some days that are dark and bitter. There will be days that have no sun. Days when we will just need to hang on just like that day that Peter and John mourned for their brother and friend. As Peter and John sat there watching the late afternoon sun setting over the lake that they had once fished, thinking of the friend that was no longer with them and of the path they traveled and would travel, they thought of the some day that would come when they all would be together once again. And their writings show that from that day forward to the day they died neither of them gave up that hope.
And we have their testimony. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, the Word of life; which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.