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“Fallout!”: A Tale of Two Friends

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”…

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.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Five: “A Drama of Choices!”

Journal Entry:

All is quiet now, all the tumult having died away and The Master laid into His borrowed Tomb. Now… there is… TIME!

“TIME”… that principle difference between human and angelic consciousness and thought. “TIME”… that “tick/tock” thing that people experience between one event and the next, one encounter and the next, one element of a sequence and the next. We don’t have that, we don’t know “delay”. For us, all is “sequence”… one thought follows another, like pages in a book. There is no “space” or “distance”, or “process” or “ponder”. We do not “consider” between “choices”. We CHOSE, we MADE our CHOICE, and now… for us… there is simply “discern-and-do” as to His Majesty’s will.

The other difference, a critical difference, between human and angelic consciousness is “illusion-deceit-falsehood”. We SEE, we truly see. We cannot be deceived or fooled or lied to or misled. Dark Ones cannot paint a false picture before us of specious choices, and tempt us to lean away from His Majesty’s will.

Somehow, all that… both “time” and “falsehood”… are bound up with physical matter. Since we are utterly “spirit”, those subordinate orders of being, those things that depend on material substance and comparison to have meaning, simply don’t. They have no meaning or hold over us.

It was in Eden, in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of material Creation, when His Majesty and The Master began to weave together the spiritual and the material, the substantive, when both “time” and “falsehood” were realized from the potential to the actual. We angels can “observe” such a state of existence, and we can even “participate in” it from time to time (at His Majesty’s bidding), but we do not… we CANNOT… fully experience or comprehend it.

Facility in both spirit and matter are Divine attributes. His Majesty, The Master, The Radiance… they can all create in both spirit and matter. We cannot. But Man… Man, now… Man is fashioned in His image, can enter fully into Him, and in Him can create in both matter and spirit.

What has all this got to do with the horrendous events that have just passed? Well… EVERYTHING! They have EVERYTHING to do with it!

Because we angels are truly “sons of God” created at His hands… yes. But we are purely spirit, we made ONE and only one “choice” (to embrace Him or to repel Him), and we live apart from material time or illusion, in the Eternal. We are, therefore and fully, “servants” to Him and His will.

Man, on the other hand, lives in the material (though with fully spiritual faculties), is subject to material time (the tick-tock kind), and can be deluded and misled. Therefore, MAN lives in a state of moment-by-moment CHOICE regarding His Majesty and His will. Every moment, man gets to choose to embrace His Majesty and His will, or to repel Him.

And THAT… is EVERYTHING… about these momentous and horrendous events these days…

I wrote last of the exit from the Passover Supper into the Garden of Gethsemane on “Thursday night”. From that exit, and the separation of Judas from the group, The Master knew and tried to prepare His (now) “friends” for what the next 18 hours would bring.

So many things occurred in such a “brief” (humanly speaking) span of time… a person could spend years tracking all the threads of all the drama there. The fears, the ambitions, the delusions, the agendas… The Romans, the Politicians, the Religious Leaders, the Pious, the Exploiters, the Voyeurs, those seeking “Entertainment” (as at a train wreck, a public hanging, or a bloodsport), the confusion.

But we angels saw it all a bit differently. We don’t see all the “bells and whistles”, the “flash and sparkle”. I cannot speak to what others saw, but what *I* saw, with intense clarity, was an astonishing sequence of “choices” made by just a handful of “principal actors”, whose decision sequence summarized what happened throughout the region in those hours.

The Actors?

  • The Master
  • Judas
  • Peter
  • The Disciples/Friends
  • Pontius Pilate
  • The Crowds

I will not go through all of that here right now. The “feelings” are yet too fresh and even (odd to say) “painful”. I’ll get more detail down in entries to follow. But all these entered into a series of “Choice Chains”, sequences of decisions where they could follow their conscience (embrace His Majesty and His will), or they could yield to temptation of fear, pride, or avarice (repel Him).

Judas… his “choice chain” is so short and clear. He is likely to be vilified and condemned for millennia as the iconic “betrayer”. And yes, indeed he was… but look at him, his concerns, his decisions and choices, up alongside Peter… and there are just a couple critical places where they are distinguished.

Anyway, enough for now. More entries later. We yet wait and see what will unfold. At this moment, nearly all are consumed with despair and disappointment. The story seems ended… ended behind a huge stone in a hole in a cliff… and the great Kingdom Story wasn’t supposed to end like this!

More to come…

 

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Gone Fishin’

Sunrise CrossPowerful things are happening among the Disciples in the days immediately following the Crucifixion. Powerful lessons are laid down for us here.

This morning, my heart is a bit heavy, and it brought these texts to mind. I thought I would share with you.

Let me open with Paul. He had written a letter to the Church at Corinth because they were misbehaving. They’d formed factions, were squabbling about foolish things, had mistaken “liberty” in Christ for “license” (and those are not the same). All in all, they were acting a bit like kids act when their parents and elders are away from home. So Paul wrote this letter, a bit harsh, calling them to order. They responded, and drew themselves back up, taking the correction with grace and sorting themselves out. In this passage below from a later letter to them, Paul addresses his regret and mixed feelings about having to correct them, and expresses an absolutely critical teaching about “sorrow” that I’ve found invaluable across decades of counseling…

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. [2 Corinthians 7:8-10]

There’s the critical teaching: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had a phone call last night asking for my prayers for an 8th grade child who has decided to do a research report term paper on “Suicide”. When their teacher asked why this topic, the answer was… This child’s 25 year old cousin, married, with a spouse and three children (a 5 year old, and twin 2 year olds), had committed suicide yesterday. The student didn’t understand… hence, the research topic.

Suicide? Bible? These days? Yes.

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. [Matthew 27:1-8]

I know I’ve posted on this before, but I am irresistibly drawn to these passages as I pray for this child, her family, and the family of this sad young man. I have no idea what was happening in his life, his mind or heart, or his family. But one thing I know, as someone who works a great deal with suicide, is that in the moments that he made his fatal decision… that young man was filled with a sorrow that leads to death, and he could see no hope of recovery. HOW he came to that moment, I do not know. THAT he came to it, I am certain. As did Judas.

Judas betrayed Jesus. He felt conviction on that. He felt remorse. He tried to undo it, to make up for it, to put things back the way they were. He tried to renounce his act, give back the money, and restore his heart. But he failed. He focused on all that he did wrong, and ultimately executed himself for it.

Let us contrast that with another betrayal of Jesus at that same time. Let’s look instead at Peter.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, *said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. [John 18:25-27]

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. [Matthew 26:75]

Bitter tears, conviction, remorse. Look familiar? Denied his Lord and best friend… cursing even. How deep was his sorrow in such moments? Who can imagine it?

But Judas experienced “sorrow of the world”? How do we know that, why can we say that? By its fruit. His sorrow led not to salvation and rescue, but to death.

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Peter, on the other hand, returned to his brothers after the Crucifixion, he ran to the tomb at the report of the women, he was with the brethren that evening when Jesus appeared. He did not abandon his life and duties, focusing myopically on his own failings and flaws. Did he know sorrow and remorse? Scripture does not say specifically, but I have no reason not to think he did.

But he and Jesus do not directly speak to one another again until they have breakfast on the seashore. I started to try to “cut and paste” through the story to put it here, and just could not bring myself to do it. The tale is a united whole, and to try to edit it just seemed “wrong” somehow.

Please look at this beautiful report… and feel how remarkable the transitions, hopes, sorrows, sadness, exuberance, joy, all of that… that Peter’s heart goes through in just this very short time.

John 21

We start with: Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They *said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

Does it make you smile a bit, too? There they are… confused… alone… frightened… grief-stricken… totally unsure of what to do or what’s coming next. Finally, Peter stands up, likely with an air of “I-have-had-enough-of-this”… and says, “I’m going fishing.” (Perhaps he intended to be alone, reflect and rest, relax a bit with some private time.) He didn’t tell anyone to come with him. Didn’t invite them. But there we go, they stand up and say, “we’re coming along”.

The passage continues with incredible tenderness between them and the Lord. Please look it over yourselves… too rich to comment on here.

But it’s the ending, with Peter, that I want to highlight.

Look at this amazing thing… After throwing himself into the water with impatience to get to Jesus, look at what Peter DOESN’T SAY!

Peter doesn’t say:

  • Lord, you were right, I was wrong
  • Thank You for praying for me
  • I was afraid, and didn’t know what I was doing
  • I’m so ashamed
  • He doesn’t even say “I’m sorry!”

Isn’t that AMAZING? And Jesus has NO PROBLEM with that! The Lord doesn’t berate him, accuse him, or rebuke him in any way. Instead, as Jesus so often does, He simply “cuts to the heart of the matter”. Peter denied their relationship three times. Jesus asks Peter to affirm their relationship three times. And it hurts… Peter is hurt by the third time Jesus asks if he loves Him. But Peter bears with the pain, answers each time, and receives the instructions that have now rippled outwards from that moment into the heart of every shepherd on earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is the point of this post?

I am praying for the loved ones of a 25 year old husband and father who lost all hope, could not see how to make things right, and ended his own life.

Judas came to that same moment in his life, by betraying Jesus.

Peter also betrayed Jesus, may have felt as bad about it as Judas (or maybe worse), but he did NOT come to that place of hopeless despair.

What was the difference between them? That’s a question worthy of much study and I encourage you to ponder it. There are lots and lots of answers, and I’ll not catalog them here.

But here’s the critical piece I want to light up here:

We all do regrettable things. But the sorrow of the world focuses our gaze on ourselves… our own failings… what we did wrong… how we can make it right… what WE have to do about it. This was Judas’ approach.

The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation… to rescue. Peter did not just focus on himself. He got with the Disciples, he shared their amazement at the tomb and in the closed room. When he decided to go fishing, and they invited themselves along, he did not deny them. When John told him Jesus was standing on the shore, he did not hide in the back of the boat. Peter embraced his own failings, got about his task of leading the Disciples, and embraced them. Peter regained his hope, trusted Jesus even having denied Him, and received full forgiveness, absolution, and restoration, without any confession or apology.

Could it be that God is not nearly so interested in our examens, confessions, penance, breast-beating, pleas and cries of remorse… as He is with simply restoring our love and trust in relationship? Could it be that He would dearly love our focusing vastly less on our sins, sinfulness, and failings, and vastly more on His love, kindness, mercy and embrace of us?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wonder if that 25 year old husband and father knew this? I hope more learn it.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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