I always underestimate how quickly this part of the story happened. If we read yesterday's and today's stories in the Bible, they take up a lot of space. For example, of the 21 chapters in John, 1/3 of them (chapters 13-19) are filled with the content of these 24 hours. This makes the pace seem slower when reading the story, as we read about Jesus getting passed back and forth between people, Pilate trying to figure out what to do with him, and the religious leaders working the political system to get their desired result (“You are no friend of Caesar… We have no king but Caesar.”). Yet despite the change in pace of the narrative, the reality is that Thursday evening Jesus was having dinner with his friends–including Judas. By mid-afternoon on Friday both Judas and Jesus were dead.
As I’ve tried to let these stories sink in and picture the scenes of the Last Supper, Jesus’ trial with the Sanhedrin, Peter’s denial, the crowd’s choice of Barabbus and insistence on Jesus’ death, I’ve realized something: If I had been there and been a character in the story, or even just a face in the crowd, it’s silly to think that I would have done anything differently from what everyone else did. I too would have been on the wrong side of the story and left Jesus alone.
I might have been one of those who loved Jesus but for various reasons couldn’t do anything about what was happening, and therefore had to let it happen. Those such as Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, John, Joseph of Arimathea, or Nicodemus surely hated what they saw happening but felt some inevitable sense of resignation to the way things were playing out so quickly.
Or I might have been someone who more actively turned my back and ran from Jesus, like most of his friends. I may have even done what Peter did and tried to cover up any tracks that I’d had with him. Based on my own history in circumstances much less intense that what Peter faced that night, I don’t have much reason to think I would do any better than he did.
Or I might have been Judas. It’s easy to believe that I could have been more interested in my own plan than Jesus’ way. Like Judas, I too have been disappointed with God at times, feeling that he didn’t come through as he should have, so who’s to say that I wouldn’t have been the one to seek personal gain as a result of Jesus not turning out to be and do what I had hoped?
Regardless of what role I would have played, I would have been among those included in Jesus’ statement, “you all will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
I would have been somewhere on the wrong side of this horrible drama. And Jesus would have known that, and even in his most agonizing hours which I helped to bring about, he would have loved me anyway.
A Prayer for the Day:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]