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Facing Betrayal

Facing Betrayal

John 18: 1-12 & 13-27.


There is a rookie mistake that everybody on the worship team makes. And that is to get distracted by something that doesn’t matter to the sermon.

It’s an easy mistake to make. They are doing all this research and maybe 85% of it you will never know about. They could tell you so many things about the passage they have been studying, maybe studying for the last three months. And then you just get their best bits. But sometimes, sometimes there is a wee bit in there that has nothing to do with the main points that they want to make, but they have discovered this thing that they never noticed before...and it has got under their skin. And even though it adds nothing to the sermon, even though it may even detract from the sermon, they somehow subconsciously sneak it in.

With all my experience I would never let something subconsciously sneak in that has nothing to do with the sermon. When I make a mistake like that I consciously do it.

Like this bit that I had never noticed before...Peter didn't go to the courtyard of the High Priest alone. In my head Peter follows alone and gets onto the courtyard and then, alone, he tries to hear what is going on. But that doesn’t happen. That’s not what the bible says happens.

Listen again...

Simon Peter AND ANOTHER DISCIPLE followed Jesus. THAT OTHER DISCIPLE WAS WELL KNOWN TO THE HIGH PRIEST, so he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priests house, while Peter stayed outside by the gate. Then THE OTHER DISCIPLE went back out, spoke to the girl at the gate, and brought Peter inside.

Who was the other disciple?

OK this is total speculation; there is no proof of any of this, but what if that other disciple was Judas?

What other disciple would have been known to the High Priest?

Judas obviously had had dealings with the High Priest to arrange the time and place to arrest Jesus.

Judas may not have seen the arrest as an arrest, but as a summons to the High priest, at night, so that the authorities could have a secret meeting, like Nicodemus had had with Jesus.

Only later when Judas realised he had been set up would the disciples not have trusted him, and maybe he wouldn't have trusted himself, and his reputation by then would have been dirt. Which is why, maybe, John doesn't say which disciple helped Peter get into the courtyard, because why would Peter hang about with a betrayer, unless at that point none of them realised what was going on.

Just a thought.

So, let’s get on to the main point, Peter and his betrayal.

What a mess.

On one hand you could argue that Peter was trying his best to fulfil his promise to Jesus. Hours earlier, at the last supper, Jesus had said that they all would betray him. But Peter had declared, ‘I will never leave you, even though all the rest do.’

The night had been a disaster. No one could have guessed what was going to happen.

And yet, even at the risk on his own life, Peter was there, trying to work out what to do, trying to save the day.

But he was surrounded by guards, surrounded by enemies.

And every time he tried to think things through someone was recognising him, losing his element of surprise. He tried to deflected them, lie to them, so that he could get more time to think, to work out what to do but there just wasn’t enough time.

And then the cock crows three times.

And he remembers what Jesus had said, and the denials he had said to fool those around him, to give himself time...and he realises it is too late.

I don’t think anyone is angry at Peter for what he did.

I think part of that is that we can’t imagine what we would do in that situation.

What if it was us at the fire warming our hands and someone accused us of being with Jesus?

Would we have stood up and declared that we were a disciple and taken the consequences?

Would we have been brave enough to be there in the first place?

But the trouble is that we get stuck there.

We know Peter betrayed Jesus.

And what is worse we know we probably would have betrayed Jesus.

What is even worse is that we know WE HAVE betrayed Jesus.

There are times when people have said to us, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?’

Maybe they haven’t even said it, just the look they gave us accusingly.

When we have said something or done something that isn't very Christ-like.

When we have said something or done something that isn't compassionate or forgiving or tolerant or caring.

When we have carelessly accused all immigrants of coming over here and stealing our jobs,

or all Muslims of being a bit suspicious,

or all gays of being perverts.

When we have questioned the attitudes or the motives of others, even when they have done something good, just because we dislike them.

When we have dismissed someone views, just because they have a different political stance from us.

When we have closed our hearts to the pain and the needs of others just because we don't want to have the commitment to care, or we don’t want to get our hands dirty.

And someone looks at us and we know what they are thinking, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?’

And at that point, boy do we get defensive.

‘I’m only human,’ but isn't that the point, Christ calls us to be humane.

‘It’s not my fault,’ but no one said it was, it isn’t about fault, it’s about caring.

‘You can’t expect me to be perfect,’ Christ doesn't expect us to be perfect, just to cross the road and help the injured on the other side, not to walk on by.

And that’s the real problem, we can be stuck here, at that point of betrayal.

We are so busy protecting ourselves like Peter, so busy defending ourselves, that we are stuck in that moment.

Arguing why we are right when we are obviously wrong.

Trying to defend the indefensible.

If the other disciple was Judas, maybe that's why he isn't mentioned again.

Maybe seeing Jesus being interrogated he realised that this wasn't what he expected to happen. And the moment comes when he sees that he can't defend what he has done. So what does he do?

Instead of defending himself all that energy goes into attacking himself.

How could he be so stupid?

How could he have been a pawn of such evil?

He can’t face to see what he has done so he leaves, deserts Jesus, deserts Peter.

And in the end, realising that he is so flawed, he kills himself.

So why doesn't Peter?

He is just as flawed, just as weak.

But Peter becomes something different; Peter comes out stronger for all of this.

Let me tell you a story.

In my quiet time I was reading one of Robert Fulghum’s books, ‘It was on Fire when I lay down on it.’

And in this book he tells of a wedding that got taken over by the mother of the bride. And I mean taken over. Everything had to be the best. Everything had to be controlled so that it was the best.

Everything was the best.

For instance, the engagement ring was taken back and replaced with a bigger one because it wasn't good enough.

All the bridesmaids’ dresses were individually fitted and paid for (all nine of them) as you would expect. But so were all the groomsmen's tuxedos all individually fitted and paid for.

They got rid of the church organ as it was too churchy and replaced it with an eighteen piece brass and wind ensemble.

All the pews had candles lit with lovely fragrance and there were enough candles that it outshone the sun.

On the day itself the mother of the bride walked down the aisle knowing her eight months of planning would result in a wedding that everyone would remember.

And they did.

Down came the bridesmaids to music as all the groomsmen went to their places.

Then came four mini princess flinging petals all down the aisle.

Then came two ring bearers one for each ring.

All this was being recorded by three different cameramen.

Then last, but by no means least, came the bride.

The bride that hadn't eaten in days because she was so nervous of getting something wrong on the big day and letting down her mother.

The bride who had been given quite a lot of champagne by her dad just to settle her nerves.

The bride who, having settled down, had eaten some of the mints that had been in the house for guests, and then some of the nut mixes, then some prawns as she was passing them by, some crisps, some liver pate on crackers.

The bride who, as she got to the very front of the church, spewed it all out in a mega projectile vomiting way; on herself, on the mother of the bride, on the groom, on the church carpet.

The place was pandemonium.

The smell of the peuk and the fragrant candles was not a good mix and that caused some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to start running for the doors before they pueked up. Others were running in a panic trying to get stuff to clean the place up.

And in the chaos the cameramen caught the smile of the father of the bride and the mother of the groom at the sight of the face of horror on the mother of the bride as this disaster enfolded.

How does this story end?

Ten years later, at the 10 year wedding anniversary. The couple still happily married because what the bride really remembered was that when she was lying there at her very worst, the person who was beside her was her knight in shining armour who stuck by her.

And who organised the anniversary event? The mother of the bride of course. And when the video was shown of the day in all its chaos, the one who laughed loudest was herself.

Because she was not only able to forgive the bride and the father of the bride for their part in the disaster, she was also able to forgive herself.

Which was why they still loved her.

Which is why Peter and Judas had very different outcomes.

Peter knew he was flawed, Judas knew he was flawed, when we are honest with ourselves we know we are flawed.

Now we can try and pretend that we aren’t, and that doesn't help anybody.

Peter got into the mess at the courtyard because he was trying to pretend that he was braver and stronger and better than he was. So pretending doesn't work out.

And we can try and defend ourselves if we want, but in the end that doesn't work out either. Because at some point we need to realise that we can’t blame others for the mess we have been part of ourselves. And if all we do is aggressively defend ourselves, then all that happens is that when we stop aggressively defending ourselves we start to aggressively attack ourselves. It is all our fault, we are never good enough, we can never fix the problem. We will always be pathetic. And one way or another we destroy ourselves doing that.

I would suggest, that if we really want to move on, then we do what Peter did.

That we take the forgiveness that Jesus gives us, and use that to forgive others and, maybe even more importantly, forgive ourselves.

And in forgiveness, find a better way to live our life.

That we take the forgiveness that Jesus gives us, and use that to forgive others and, maybe even more importantly, forgive ourselves.

And in forgiveness, find a better way to live our life.

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