John 18:1- 19:42
Well, yesterday we reflected on how Jesus showed loyalty to his disciples despite the fact that they were unable to remain loyal to him. Even though he knew everything that was going to happen to him today, how Peter would deny him, Judas would betray him, and almost all of the disciples abandon him, he still washed their feet last night, and fed them with his own life, cementing their forgiveness and showing that his loyalty to them could not be broken.
Today we see just how far Jesus's loyalty takes him, and we see especially that it is not just the disciples who were disloyal and faded away, but us as well.
So Judas has betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The disciples have abandoned Jesus except for Peter and another disciple, which isn't saying much for Peter, since he denied his relationship with Jesus three times. The people who shouted Hosanna for Jesus when he entered Jerusalem have called for his execution. At the moment of his crucifixion, only five of the mass of his followers were there, including only one disciple, and when it came time to bury Jesus, the only one who stepped forward was a secret follower. Jesus' close circle of friends, whom he had fed and forgiven the night before, were nowhere to be found.
It's easy for us to stand in judgment on the disciples. It's easy for us to identify with Jesus, to think of the times when friends of ours have betrayed us, or been disloyal, or just plain run away. But what's not so easy for us is to acknowledge that, in fact, we are those disloyal disciples. That we are the ones who stand in judgment, who have betrayed him, who have run away.
You see, today - Good Friday - isn't about how awful the disciples were who abandoned Jesus, or how awful the Jews were who betrayed him, or how awful the Romans were who crucified him. It's about how awful we are, for failing to recognize that we abandon and betray and crucify Jesus on a daily basis. The truth is that we pay only lip service to Christ's teachings. We say we're his followers, we go to church on Sunday and on the holidays, but when it comes right down to it - when we're asked to give all we have, to give our heart, to give our life, to give our possessions, we back away. We walk by people in need all the time because it's too embarrassing to look at them. We turn away from people who ask for our money because we're too afraid to give it up. We shut people out of God's circle of love and forgiveness because we don't want to be contaminated by sinners. We point out other people's faults so nobody notices our own. And in doing all these things, we are guilty of the same things Jesus' disciple-friends are - of abandoning and betraying the one we claim to follow. We are the ones deserving of judgement.
And we all know what Jesus' response to this ought to be. It's what we would do in his place - we would cut these so-called friends out of our life, we would turn our back on them. If we were in Jesus' place, we would probably get them dragged in to face the authorities and even onto the cross with us. But we also know that that was not, and is not, Jesus' response to betrayal and disloyalty. Jesus' response last night was to wash the feet of those whom he knew would walk - run - away from him. His response was to offer forgiveness through his body and blood to those whom he knew would not stand up and protect that same body. And today, Jesus' response is to die for those whom he knows would not die for him. To die for his disciples, to die for the world, to die for us. Jesus shows us that when it comes to loyalty, there is nothing that will break the ties he has made with us, that there is no betrayal so great that he would ever stop loving us or being there for us. Jesus shows us, as the Son of God, that his loyalty to us, to God's people, is forever. And he dies to prove it.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us at the foot of the cross, quite astonished that someone would actually give up their life for us. Now, we know what happens three days later - we know what happens on Easter, and maybe Jesus did, too. We can't be sure. But that doesn't change the fact that we have betrayed him and that he has responded to our betrayal with a loyalty that extends to death. And so we wait, to see if that loyalty will extend even further, to see if there is a way for us to give thanks for what we've been given so far, to see and hear that the forgiveness Christ brought is complete and everlasting.