Grace: To suffer with Christ who suffers for my sins.
Text: John 18:1-22
Reflection: In these final days of Lent, we are called to reflect upon Jesus’ final moments with His friends. After praying in agony throughout the night at Gethsemane, and knowing He was to be betrayed, Jesus calmly faces His betrayer. What kinds of emotions must have been coursing through His heart? Here is one of his friends! A man who chose to follow Him for at least three years—sharing in the pain and in the praise as one of Jesus’ disciple. Psalm 55 might help us to understand how Jesus felt: “It is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship.”
Peter, overcome with righteous rage, draws his sword and strikes in violence. Jesus rebukes him—he still does not understand the type of messiah that Jesus is! Perhaps Peter cannot see past the fact that one of Jesus’ own friends betrayed Him. Perhaps Peter is still angry and ashamed from having fallen asleep while Jesus suffered and prayed alone. Perhaps Peter is still hurting from having been rebuked by Jesus during the Last Supper for not wanting Him to wash his feet. All these emotions surge to the surface. All these emotions end in violence and cowardice. Peter has to learn the hard way that Jesus needs to continue on to Calvary. Only Jesus can do this—only He can confront death. This is a hard lesson for Peter, as well as for us. He is called to follow to Golgotha. We are called as well. Called to follow Jesus and to allow Him to suffer, to let these things come to pass. We must let go.
After binding Him, they take Him to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiphas, who was the high priest that year. Peter and another disciple follow at a distance, scared to death. Jesus stands before one of the most powerful Jews, abandoned. There are few friendly faces in the crowd (or perhaps there are none) that follows in His wake. Jesus is alone. How could such an innocent man be treated with such cruelty? How could such a man be abandoned by His friends? Placed in that situation, would we have done the same thing?
In the courtyard, Peter looks on from a safe distance. He is worried about Jesus, but not worried enough to stand up for Him. He is no longer as brazen as he once was. Or perhaps he is too confused to know what to do. Someone recognizes him. He denies his friendship with Jesus. What if we had been there: confused and scared? What if someone had singled us out from the crowd, saying that we deserved to be with Jesus in front of Annas, being interrogated, beaten, insulted, and mocked? What kind of betrayals and denials have we committed? How many times have we abandoned Jesus to the bloodthirsty crowds?