[Jesus], having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. John 13:1b (NKVJ)
They were part of a hand-picked cadre of men who had been carefully trained for a long-term mission. For several years they had eaten, slept, lived, and traveled together in anticipation of deployment. They were aware of the hazards that lay ahead and the potential dangers. Still, they remained part of the chosen few.
While their training had been identical, their paths would slowly and imperceptibly begin to diverge although no one would know until much later. One was a highly capable and trusted financial manager while the other was a married man who had initially answered the call of the sea. Both were drawn to their charismatic leader – the money man cherished plans of a massive takeover; the fisherman, impetuous by nature, quickly apprehended their leader’s direction and just as quickly missed the deeper implications of his teachings.
After years of being part of an elite team, the money man became impatient and frustrated with their leader’s failure to seize the power that was just within his grasp. The fisherman was content just to follow and to learn and to love and be loved. While the fisherman fell more deeply in love with his leader, the money man became more fascinated with the funds that were entrusted to him. He began to think of them as his own and to treat them as such. He made of himself a thief.
The leader, knowing all these things, held an exclusive dinner party – just for his special men. Taking his place at the head of the table, he seated the money man at his left side, thinking perhaps he could whisper a few words that might alter his course. As the evening progressed, he told the select gathering that one of them would turn against him. Was this an opportunity for the money man to change his mind? The men were shocked and in low tones began to ask each other who that could be. The fisherman signaled to a team member on the leader’s right to ask the identity of the traitor. Looking with unbearable grief and entreaty at the money man seated on his left, the leader explained. “I’m sharing this piece of bread with the one who will betray me.” Another possibility for turning. Instead, the man took the bread, consumed it, and walked out into the darkness of treachery.
The fisherman swore undying loyalty to his leader. When soldiers came to take the leader away, the fisherman followed but under pressure, he, too, betrayed the one he had sworn to love. He betrayed him not just once but three times. The fisherman’s heart was broken when he saw the extent of his infidelity.
Two friends followed the same leader. They ate, slept, lived, and traveled together and were taught by him as they awaited deployment. One friend took the money he’d been given to betray his leader but then tossed it back. Instead of returning to the leader who’d chosen him in the first place, in final despair he threw himself away. The money man played god and went to his grave.
The fisherman went back to his nets. Within days the leader found him and tenderly, graciously mended his heart and re-commissioned him as a sign of reconciliation.
Two friends: Judas rejected Jesus, his love, his salvation, his future. Peter rejected Jesus but was restored by his love, his salvation, and given a future.
Father, nothing can separate us from your love. You have called us, and you are able to keep us. When we have sinned and failed you, remind us of the great price Jesus paid that we might be forgiven and restored. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.