Easter week and the story of two disciples who failed
Most years, since I began blogging eight years ago, I have posted an Easter meditation into my blog. I am mindful that some good Christian folk don’t celebrate Easter for good reasons and, while I get Jesus life, death and resurrection should be celebrated the whole year round, I have come to value the opportunity to dig deep, at this time, concerning the events of Holy Week. This is my 2022 offering:
The focus of the Easter story is the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are now in the season widely celebrated by many parts of the western church, called Holy week. It begins on the Sunday just gone (Palm Sunday) when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. It ends on the following Sunday (Easter Sunday) when Jesus rises from the dead, having been crucified on the previous Friday and with it the prospect of forgiveness of sin and new and eternal life.
Much can be said about these events, helped by the fact the four gospels give a lot of space to recounting what went on during that week, but for this meditation I want to focus on the lives of two of Jesus disciples: Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and Peter who denied him that final week. Both might be regarded as enigmatic, leaving us to read between the lines as to what made them tick. Their stories have important practical applications, and provide examples of what not to follow (Judas) and what to follow (Peter).
Peter, we know as the fisherman who was part of Jesus inner circle, witnessing, for example, Jesus transfiguration and being close by during most of the important events in Jesus ministry. The irony was that he was so sure of himself when it came to his love and loyalty to Jesus come what may but, when placed in the predicament of being outed as one of Jesus disciples, following Jesus arrest, he denied Him (just as Jesus predicted when he said Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed) and Peter broke down immediately after, realising what he had done. Yet after Jesus rose from the dead, he was reinstated and given a job to feed the sheep (other followers of Jesus) which he did for the rest of his life, including becoming effectively the leader of the church to emerge, whose life ended (according to tradition) with him being crucified.
Wherever we look in the Bible, we find God calling imperfect people who were to go on and play an important part in His plans, often having to learn from and pay a price for their mistakes. No doubt, it was true for all of Jesus twelve disciples, who were an eclectic bunch as well as an imperfect one. The most problematic of them all, was Judas Iscariot, who we read later Jesus knew would betray him. We might reflect why Jesus called Judas Iscariot in the first place. I would like to think Jesus saw potential in Judas that if things were different could have been realised and, having seen Jesus in action and that He was the real deal, he was in a better position than most to respond. We know little about him other than he looked after the money for the group and that he betrayed Jesus (as to why, we do not know exactly) for thirty pieces of silver. Like Peter, he was sorry for his actions, evidenced by returning the money, but unlike Peter, it did not lead to true repentance and he went on to commit suicide.
It seems to me, whoever we are, we are likely to do things we are ashamed of. We can persist in disobedience and even be sorry for what we do, and in the worst case engage in some form of self harm, but the choice is clear – we can either follow the example of Peter or that of Judas. As for this Easter time, let us remember its central message. Jesus paid the price for OUR sins and He rose victoriously over death, proving the price had been paid. He offers us eternal life as a free gift. Forgiveness of sins is on offer now as it was to Peter and Judas. It needs to be received by faith by those who repent. He calls us (whosoever will) simply to follow Him. Will you do that?