Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 5 April 19:
Mark 14:27 – “And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away.’”
Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt knowing all of His closest friends would betray Him when He needed them the most? From the Scriptures, Jesus had been prepared for this betrayal (“for it is written”), and Jesus knew His disciples better than they knew themselves; but nonetheless, their unfaithfulness undoubtedly hurt Him more than we can imagine. Though one by one they all proclaimed, “Surely not I,” even courageous Peter failed Jesus miserably. Notice, by the way, that before the infamous rooster crows, Peter had already begun to “fall away” by failing to “keep watch” and by “following at a distance” (Mark 14:37, 54).
Christian brothers and sisters, let’s pay attention to the process of falling away: following at a distance is a half-hearted commitment that only lacks enough heat and pressure to become total betrayal. The passive, silent or chameleon Christian is the one described by James and the Psalmist as double-minded, “unstable in all his ways,” and pronounced by Jesus as “lukewarm,” uncommitted, unsuitable, unprepared to stand the test. (Psalm 119:113; James 1:8, 4:8; Revelation 3:16) As Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)
What is truly amazing is that despite knowing that His disciples would all betray Him, Jesus never quit on them or distanced himself from them. Rather, He humbly washed their feet! Concerning Judas, the most infamous betrayer who “having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it,” Jesus never kicked him out of the small, intimate group, never fired him from his role as treasurer, but rather continued to break bread with him as a close friend. (John 12:6) Knowing their weakness, Jesus still took Peter, James, and John to Gethsemane.
Would you take relationship advise from Jesus? Is this how you would treat your unfaithful friends? I think most Christians would call a person foolish if that person were to model Jesus’ behavior today. We would be quick to take Matthew 10:16 out of context “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” and we would justify putting up relational walls by quoting from theological sea lawyers who say, “Forgiveness is a gift, but trust is something you earn.” After all, God doesn’t want us to be doormats, right?
By continuing to remain vulnerable to His unfaithful friends, Jesus wasn’t being naïve or foolish, nor was He engineering the fulfillment of the Scriptures, He was modeling true love as is described in 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8 – “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
When Jesus told his disciples to forgive their brothers “not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22),” He understood that this type of forgiveness would open the door to continued maltreatment but would also keep the door open for the Gospel and potential reconciliation. Jesus understood that the closest relationships would often hurt the most.
There is a famous story about the childhood of Thomas Aquinas which highlights the trusting heart: His classmates, who mocked his trusting spirit, decided to play a joke on him. They all got together in the classroom and stared excitedly out the window. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. “Thomas, come quickly,” the students responded, “there are pigs—FLYING!” Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter died down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, “I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.”
By remaining loving (and trusting) to the disciples, Jesus exposed to them the truth of themselves that previously they could not see in themselves. His costly display of love to them convicted all but Judas to change their lives forever. How much different would their lives had been if Jesus demanded that they earn His trust and if Jesus kept up protective relational barriers between them and He until they did? What would happen if you only displayed grace to others in the Name of Christ, forgave unconditionally in all situations, and only returned good for evil?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Apr 19: In your relationships, make yourself vulnerable for sake of the Gospel, and appreciate the opportunity to fellowship in the suffering of Christ as an act of worship.