Please take a moment to read through John 17:6-23. See how these words are nested within an incredible benediction:
And please have a look at this as well:
Have you ever been “UnFriended?” Like, on Facebook? It’s happened to me. Only once, granted… but still, it’s happened. Ever been in a place of greatest trial in your life, say… where symptoms have appeared of some dreadful disease, but tests have not yet begun, and all there is is that raw terror of mental and physical decline? Imagine being in the darkest hour of your existence, trusting only the smallest handful of friends with the transparency of your anguish in this moment… and having one of them turn their back, call you names, accuse you of some horrendous sin you cannot even comprehend, let alone commit. Imagine having one you have served, always treated as sacred, trusted as “treasured friend”… utterly turn on you and abandon you… not even willing to stand where you stand, even upon your death. Imagine such a thing.
How do you deal with that?
Well, there’s a “wrong” way, and a “right” way.
The wrong way is to yield to all the temptation that says, “Well, they simply lied for all that time. They never esteemed or treasured me or my friendship. They are not worth my time or trouble. If they cannot stand alongside me in my need, in this darkness, in this trial… then who needs such “fair weather friends”. They want to “UnFriend” me? Fine, then! Forget about it! I don’t need their shadow to darken the door of my Temple ever again! They lied before, they could lie now or at any time. They have betrayed my trust, and never again will I risk that!”
The “wrong way” is to declare the sacred relationship “dead”, rend one’s clothes, knock the dust from one’s shoes, turn them over to God… and let Him sort them out without any further love on our part.
Jesus taught against this in no uncertain terms, both as to “forgiveness” and “kindness even to enemies”, and as to “if you remember your brother holds something against you”. Jesus EVER moves towards reconciliation and restoration of sacred relationships! ALWAYS!
But HOW? How does He do that? How do WE do that, in Him?
Well, let’s take a brief look at: “A Tale of Two Betraying Friends”
Of course, we speak of comparing Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. I’ve always been struck by the comparisons and contrasts of these two crucial characters of the Gospel drama. I’ve written about this before… but never with the personal application we are looking at here. There is pivotal application here to my own life, and perhaps, Gentle Reader, to yours as well.
It astonishes me to realize that Judas did not betray Jesus until AFTER: Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with him, washed his feet, spoken of the end of things… even called them “friends”.
Hold right there a moment… Judas Iscariot is among the disciple group, when Jesus declares that, because He has revealed the fullness of the Father’s love to all of them, they are now “friend” to Him, no longer merely subordinate “disciples”. Jesus has now utterly “revealed Himself” transparently, to the entire group.
But then, Jesus is again troubled by a bout of distress. He sits at the table, and anguish overtakes Him as He tells them He will be betrayed. Various disciples ask if it is they… Imagine that! Imagine “not knowing” if we would, ourselves, betray Jesus to death? “Is it I?”… Then Jesus hands the sop to Judas, and instructs that he do what must be done quickly, and Judas exits. Jesus then shares the Bread and the Cup, they all exit to the Garden, Jesus reveals that all will abandon Him before the end, and Peter vehemently denies the very possibility.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And so the stage is set…
Two friends who betray, and abandon, Him…
Two relationships with Him, sundered denial and abnegation…
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and receives his payment. Peter denies even knowing Jesus with vehement curses, then abandons Him to His fate with bitter tears. Both sin, both deny, both betray, and… eventually… both know remorse for their deeds. Another post, from another time, looks at how these two (Judas and Peter) dealt differently with their remorse. “Gone Fishin'”
But now, let’s look at this from Jesus’ side of the relationship. Informed by all we know as Christians, all we learn from the Gospels and from Jesus’ teaching and requirements of us, all we experience at the prompting of the Holy Spirit within… let us look at how, if we are obedient to love as Jesus loves, how we are to deal with someone who betrays, lies about, or abandons US!
How did Jesus “get back” at Judas? How did He “discipline” him? How did He “church” him? How did He “cast Judas out?”
Sobering, isn’t it? Knowing what He knew, Jesus did nothing but continually bless Judas. He never “threw him out”, or did other than warn him of the consequences of his decisions. I’ve often thought Judas was still capable of derailing the entire Crucifixion thing right up to the point where he utterly resolved and decided to “do it”. At THAT moment, receiving a morsel from the very hand of Jesus, he gives the will wholly up to the evil of betraying Jesus, Judas “opens the door of his heart and stands fully aside” for the moment John narrates as “Satan entered into him”.
The last words Jesus speaks to Judas are simply, “What you must do, do quickly.”
As discussed in the earlier post, Judas eventually experiences remorse, but tries to make things right on his own, without ever daring to face the disciples or Jesus Resurrected. Nothing he tries works, and Judas dies by his own hand.
Now let us consider how Jesus deals with His betrayal and abandonment by Peter.
Again, Jesus does nothing but deal “normally” with Peter after telling Him of his coming betrayal. Jesus teaches him, blesses him, shares bread and cup with him, brings him to the Garden and asks him to stand watch, rebukes him for his sleep, and ultimately rebukes him for injuring Malchus with that sword as He heals the injured man. No further words pass between them until Peter’s betrayal and abandonment in the courtyard of Pilate.
Now… here’s the really hard lesson here.
Peter denies Jesus. Peter curses in the vehemence of his denial. Peter abandons Jesus.
How does Jesus “react” to all this?
Jesus makes NO CHANGE in their relationship and friendship.
It’s that simple. Peter runs to the tomb at the report of the women of the Resurrection. He sees nothing, as don’t any of the other men.
Jesus enters the room and speaks to the disciples as a group, including Peter, though they exchange no private or personal words. Jesus appears at various times, Peter experiences these apparitions.
As to the appearance of Jesus on the beach cooking breakfast, when from the boat John recognizes that the man is Jesus and Peter jumps out of the boat half dressed (stripped down for fishing) and wades to shore…
Who can imagine what words were on the tip of Peter’s tongue as he fought the lapping surf for a “private word” with the Lord? But none of it came out… no apology, no self flagellation, no confession, no worthless worm, no contrition… nothing came out.
Jesus did not rebuke, correct, accuse, or even make reference to the event. Jesus met Peter’s need for “refocus”, “repurposing”, by simply asking three times if he loved Him, and instructing Him to perform the task he was appointed to for the rest of his life. To feed and tend Jesus sheep and lambs.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bottom line? Jesus treated Peter just as He always had. Jesus treated Peter just as He treated all other Disciple/Friends. He appeared, He spoke, He loved, He touched, He fed, and ultimately He sent the Holy Spirit to penetrate and enter into to Peter, just as all the others.
In other words, Jesus did exactly as He commands us to do… bless, love, do good, and embrace ALL… whether they love us or hate us. No difference. Forgive, from the heart, not because of anything the “other” the “forgiven” bring to the moment, but simply because so the Father does with us. We are to enter back into the sacredness of the relationship, restoring trust and love.
Easy? No. Simple? Yes. Been abandoned, betrayed, lied about, or “UnFriended”? What to do? Do nothing. Bless them, speak truth with grace, live (as far as depends on you) in peace with the other, and continue to treat them sacredly as though they had never tried to wound or do you ill. As we continue to provide a conduit for grace to reach through us to them, it is to be hoped that sacredness, peace, joy, and light will restore love and light into whatever shadows and dark corners still try to impede grace in sacred spaces of relationship!
We thus honor Him, and we thus know peace.