Luke 22:47-62, NIV 2011 47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
I have not looked forward to this entry. Sometimes we read the Scriptures as an onlooker, simply hoping to gain better entry to the world of the Disciples. Other times we read them with the hopes of being able to answer a question or defend a position. These are the times when we read the Scriptures with shame and sadness. In these words, we are reminded how easy it is to both miss the point and be an awful friend.
Jesus warned his disciples that something was coming that would shake them to the core. He called them prepare themselves for battle, but even more he called them to pray because that was to be their strongest weapon in the midst of those moments. Isn’t that strange? Prayer is the most dangerous weapon we have against our enemy.
In prayer we are able to prepare our hearts by submitting them to God.
In prayer we are able to consider hope even in the midst of sure tragedy.
In prayer we are able to fix our eyes on what matters and not distracted by what doesn’t.
The betrayal of Jesus was much deeper than Judas simply going to the religious leaders, more than being arrested by the authorities in the dark of night, and more intense than being abducted during the feast of unleavened bread. The betrayal of Jesus was much deeper because all of his friends abandoned him- out of fear for themselves. Some might argue, “Well they tried to fight and he stopped them.” But I would ask, when did Jesus ever tell them that violence was the answer to any of life’s challenges? He told them to be ready for a battle, not to fight for victory – at least not in this way anyway. Had they not heard him speak of loving your enemies? Had they not been there when he ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and religious leaders? Were they not the ones distributing bread to the thousands from only 2 fish and 5 loaves? In John’s account of the arrest, it is Peter who cuts off the ear of the servant (John 18:10). Why was Peter so afraid? Of all the disciples, he should have been the most confident in Jesus’ power. Peter’s betrayal began with his reaction and then his hiding from it. Peter didn’t just deny Jesus in word, but also in deed. It’s these moments when I can see the family resemblance between Peter and I.
Just like Peter, I have been prone to react instead of responding. Peter’s betrayal beyond the Garden of Gethsemane is simply characteristic of so many of my own moments. Peter’s denial is so painful for me because it is a reminder of my own repeated failures when pressed about Jesus. Those moments when people attack the work of Jesus due to the poor way I display it and I hide. The moments when I fail to hold my tongue because I desperately need to be right. The times when I needed to use my voice for those who could not talk, my hands for those who could not fight, my feet for those who couldn’t run and my possessions for those who had nothing, but instead I passed by them because I feared being associated with them. (Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 25:41-46)
Like Peter’s denial and betrayal, I have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. That’s what makes the death of Jesus so important. Today of all days, I am reminded of how much of a coward I really can be. The denial of Jesus as Lord didn’t just show up when Peter verbally denied him, it started back when he pulled a sword and attempted to handle God’s business himself. It’s humbling to remember that no matter the intention, I cannot correct the sin problem myself. I need help. I need someone to pay the debt for me. I need someone to step in and say: “No more of this” and then pay that debt with his own life.
In these moments, Jesus did just that for the disciples and in a few “long hours” he’d do the same for all of creation.
Go in Peace.