With Friends Like These . . .
Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.
P eter wiped drool from his sleeve, stretched and glared at his Friend. Peter tried ignoring Him and turned over, but that didn’t work. His friend just wouldn’t leave him alone.
“Why you sleep’, man?” This time Peter played dead and waited. In a minute He was gone again until he felt another nudge – harder this time.
Again? “What?” Peter snapped. “Can’t a man have a moment’s peace around here?
“Man I need you. I’ve gotta do this. Can’t you stay awake for a few minutes, man?” Jesus sounded disappointed, so Peter sat up. Grouchy, he muttered something about coffee. Everyone knew when it came to sleep, he needed his. He rolled his eyes, then focused to where Jesus was praying. Now what was so important at this time of night anyway? He scratched his head. A few minutes later, Peter was snoring.
Was that another nudge? A few days earlier, we see the silhouette of a man as he walks down an empty, cobblestone street in the late evening. It is obvious the man is distinguished—note his dress and poise. Streets are empty and it’s late, sunset perhaps. He walks fast, glancing furtively left and right. Finally, he disappears into the temple. To pray? No. To make a deal.
Several priests are at a conference table talking, joking, eating. Judas enters. “Judas, come in!” One of the high priests with a playful smile on his lips says, “What can we do for you, Brother?”
Judas hesitates noting the sarcasm. “I need to make a trade!” he snaps. “For?,” a man seated at the head of the table seems interested. “For what?,” the guy blurts out. All attention turns to Judas. After what seems like forever, Judas timidly responds, “Jesus!”
Mark 14:32-42; 66-72; Matthew 27:5-10
Fast forward to the loft of a local home. Jesus is surrounded by His friends– twelve of them. You know the names. They eat, have bread and wine, but before that, they do the cultural stuff—foot washing. Jesus, towel in hand brings a pan to Peter, who doesn’t want it. Jesus pressures him and washes Peter’s feet anyway, and water trickles down Peter’s feet. Judas watching and the expression on his face could be anger, or guilt, already knowing he had made a deal that was about to go down. Why were Peter’s feet being washed first?
It’s Passover, family time, a special time for Jewish families. Jesus had decided to have a Passover supper with just His guys. Right time, right place. Everyone’s bonding, eating together. Then, Jesus drops it: “One of you guys is going to let me down!”
Jaws drop, eyebrows raise as everyone’s eyes and fingers scan the room. But according to the Apostles, it was loud-mouthed Peter, who just had to ask the question.
Mic on: “You’re talking about me, right?” Me? They will”, he says pointing. “Not me. I would never betray you! Who do you think I am?”
Shake your head and smile, because in a few hours, he does just that– not once, but three times. On the other hand, there’s Judas sitting, eating, and saying little. He can’t, because he knows Jesus knows. Jesus always knows. Just a couple of days ago he made a deal with the priests. He was smart, see: his friend for half a year’s salary. Well, that didn’t sound right, but yes, he sold his friend out. So yes, he probably squirms a little (actually a lot) when Jesus makes His remarks. Finally, not able to take the guilt anymore, he says: “Hey guys, I cant’ stay; gotta go!” His exit is quick, leaving the rest of the disciples to wander had just happened.
Hours later in the wee hours of the morning Peter and Judas—these friends of Jesus—faceoff in a charming, little garden nearby. Jesus is in His usual spot. He likes to pray there because there in solitude He can finally talk to His Father, without all the noise of the people, Pharisees, or disciples. It’s a perfect retreat for a busy time, and as mentioned in the Desire of Ages, the Passover always had wall-to-wall people. It was spring and the Garden of Gethsemane was blooming and fragrant. Most of all, it was midnight and quiet. No one is there but them, and so as Jesus meditates, the plot thickened.
Two characters, one night of joy, pain, anticipation, conflict, denial, and guilt.
This is the story of Jesus and his friends in the garden. However, focus in on a few of His “true-blue” friends. Peter, James, and John are supposed to stand by Him, but they just sleep by him. Jesus has one desperate need—a quiet moment alone to pray. But like us, He needed the support of His people. This time is crucial. It is time to agonize, to plead: “God, please, I don’t want to do this, but if you really want this, then . . .” He checks on his buddies, begs them to stay awake, but they are asleep. One, Two, Three times. Asleep every time.
Finally, for the last time, Jesus states that poignant line: “It’s time!” This loaded statement, a nagging reality that they blew their last chance to stand by Jesus, the ultimate fail. For our star guys, Peter and Judas, it will be a long night to make a complete fool of their friendship with Jesus, and ultimately themselves.
So many comparisons between these two leading men:
Both were quick thinkers: Judas makes the deal to betray Jesus and give a secret signal so as not to give himself away. At Jesus’ arrest Peter chops off a guy’s ear in a impulsive show of support.
Both were disloyal: Judas’ trade with the priests, and the signal kiss to Jesus both speak of bad intentions. Peter’s not much better, with his colorful display of expletives to prove he wasn’t one of the disciples.
Both showed remorse: Judas couldn’t deal with the fact that his kiss led to Jesus’ death, so he returned the cash. He eventually committed suicide after he realized it was a done deal. Peter fell apart when Jesus looked at him after he had denied Him for the third time. He had no peace until he saw Jesus again.
Yet, they were from vastly different backgrounds: Judas seemed to be white-collar, educated, reserved, and a calculating accountant; Peter, was a streetwise fisherman, brash, foul, impulsive, excitable, warm, expressive.
The paradox: Jesus was rabbi, but the lesson was taught by these two guys; not by priests, the mob, or even the rest of the disciples. Two men, two very different encounters with Jesus. One driven to suicide. The other to Martyrdom. Both touched by Jesus. Like Judas and Peter, Jesus will come to you. But at the end of the show, lights off. It will be your choice, your story.
HILARY CAMPBELL, writes from Beltsville, Maryland.
ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.
With Me or Against Me?
How blind is love? Is it blind at all? What about its other senses? If God is love and Jesus is God, what was Jesus looking at as He reclined at the table with His disciples, at what has come to be called the last supper? Brothers looking for upward mobility and tension that could be cut with a butter knife was the atmosphere with which we find Jesus before He takes the walk that would secure our journey in this life. Join us as we explore how the Lover of our souls dealt with those who were both with Him and against Him.
Day 1 - Read Matthew 25:1- 26:19
Before we get to the last supper it is important to get the context of the conversation. Jesus has just told some of the sharpest and most divisive parables, relaying the message that those who think they’re making it in the Kingdom need to reevaluate what is giving them assurance of their place in glory. What do you think Jesus meant by the parables he told? Tweet us about it here at Message using the hashtag, #MessageMag
Day 2 - Read Matthew 26:20-21
Some awkward things can happen at a dinner table. I don’t know if anyone can begin an evening with a more disconcerting statement. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Can you imagine what went through the disciples’ minds? Can anyone stand being accused of being something that you are not? Has anyone ever thought something about you that was completely wrong? Has there ever been a rumor spread about you that was fully false? Tell us about it here on social media using the hashtag #MessageMag
Day 3 - Read Matthew 26:22-23
One of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. I submit to you that there is spiritual maturity in being able to point out your own shortcomings. It’s completely normal to mess up, but a little extraordinary to be “fess up” to it. The disciples shared this struggle, as each of them had “dipped his hand in the bowl” with Jesus. Has there ever been a time where you realized you were wrong, knew you should admit but just couldn’t? If you are willing tell us about it, use the hashtag #MessageMag
Now that we’ve looked at our own wrongs, I know we that all of us have had others do us wrong as well. Herein lies the challenge. Jesus ate with the one who was going to hand Him over! If Jesus is the epitome of love, then His actions challenge us to be willing to not only tolerate whos who harm us, but to be hospitable to them? Tell us your thoughts: Do you think it’s in you to do this? #MessageMag
Jesus has overstepped His boundaries at this point. Not only is He at the table with the one who will betray him, but He’s sharing with him the representation of the sacrifice He is about to make. In other words, He knows that Judas is about to betray him but in response He is still willing to give everything for him. How hard is it be around the people who don’t have your best interest at heart? How hard is it to go out of your way to look out for them? Have you ever had family, “friends,” or even co-workers who had ill-intent concerning you, yet something in you kept you positive? Share that with us, using #MessageMag.
What a way to end a tension-filled evening—singing a hymn. Just from a surface look at this we can see that even when things are about to come to a boiling point Jesus is still the Prince of Peace. Does anyone desire to be able to have peace even when you cannot tell who is for or against you? The fact is that eventually all the disciples would betray and abandon Jesus, but in spite of this Jesus took joy in being able to sit down and eat with them one more time. I pray that you, as you navigate the maze of personalities this life can throw at you, are able to be at peace whether they are with or against you.
Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.