Jesus has just completed washing his disciples’ feet in humble service and then tells them he is “deeply troubled.” One of them will betray him and when Peter tries to offer support, Jesus tells him he too will betray him by denying that he knows him, not once, but three times.
Like Peter and Judas we too can betray our trust and confidence in Jesus and break our relationship with him. Even after spending the last 40 days or even 40 years learning to love him more and trying to follow him more closely we can easily turn away from him and break our trust in the relationship.
What I would like to reflect on today is the responses of each of these men, or at least the responses that our tradition holds and what that says about our relationship with Jesus. All four Gospels record Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, and three record that Peter “broke down and wept” (Mk 14:72, Mt 26:75 and Lk 22:62). Only Matthew records the reaction of Judas (27:3-5); his remorse and return of the money and his subsequent suicide. Luke does discuss Judas’ suicide in Acts 1:18-19, but attributes it to a fall. I do not want to spend time discussing the validity or the believability of these stories (nor the alternate story found in the newly translated Gospel of Judas), but I do think these stories, as told by our tradition, have great value in teaching us about reconciliation.
Both men were sorrowful for what they had done. Judas seems to have despaired and failed to understand that Jesus’ love and forgiveness had the power to heal even this breach of friendship, this absolute loss of trust. Peter remained and even if he did not believe the power of Jesus’ forgiveness to save, he learned it through experience. Mark’s Gospel makes the point to name Peter along with the other disciples who should hear the news from the women that Jesus has been raised (16:7). Luke says Peter runs to the tomb to verify the women’s report (24:12). John’s Gospel gives us a very detailed description of Peter’s reconciliation (21). In Acts Peter is the spokesperson for the community of disciples. Indicating that the community knew about Peter’s denial and they accepted God’s forgiveness of Peter and forgave Peter as well. The community was open to Peter and followed his leadership.
When we turn away from Jesus and separate ourselves from him, do
we believe in his power of love and forgiveness? Or do we despair
and lose hope that we cannot be forgiven?
It is the power of God’s love and forgiveness that saves; this is what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is about. This is the Paschal Mystery. This is our belief. This is the Easter message! Happy Easter!
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