Betrayal in the courtyard
If I were to ask you who betrayed Jesus, who would you say? I’m guessing it would be Judas, the well-known baddie of the Bible. One of Jesus’s inner circle who sold him for thirty pieces of silver. The word “Judas” synonymous with betrayal.
Another of Jesus’s inner circle also betrayed him, but we often say he disowns Jesus because it sounds better. Earlier that evening at the last supper, Jesus told Peter he would disown him three times before the cock crows at the dawn of a new day. Peter was adamant it would never happen, even if he faced death. But as the night progressed in the courtyard of the High Priest, where Jesus was being questioned, his resolve faltered.
Having read or been told this story hundreds of times, I have imagined Peter warming his hands by the fire and saying politely that he does not know Jesus. Then Jesus, flanked by guards, comes out of the door and they look at one another.
“With his heart shattered, Peter broke down and sobbed with bitter tears.” (Mark Chapter 14 verse 72 The Passion Translation)
Whilst researching my first novel, Leaving Bethany, I wondered why Peter was so upset just because he said that he did not know Jesus. We often read the Bible as if it were a rather nice book full of nice stories, and don’t read the grittiness and ugliness between the lines. Mark tells us that Peter cursed and swore. When Peter met Jesus’s eyes, he knew he had heard every word, and this was what broke Peter.
“Jesus heard every vile and disgusting word I called him.” Peter, Leaving Bethany page 102.
Peter, with nowhere else to go, runs back to the upper room where they are all staying. Then on Sunday morning news comes from Mary Magdalene that she has seen Jesus and he runs out to see. Later, he is there when Jesus appears. But where was Judas? He does not go back to his friends, and he is not there. We are told that after Jesus’s death, he was so full of remorse, he threw the money back in the High Priest’s face and killed himself. Peter and Judas, both with shattered hearts and both full of remorse for their betrayal. One returns to the group, and one hides before killing himself.
A few days later, they return to Galilee and go fishing on the lake. They see the risen Jesus cooking fish for breakfast on the shore, and Peter dives in to swim to him. Now, sitting by the campfire on the beach, Jesus asks him three times whether he loves him, and three times Peter says yes. Jesus reinstates him as a disciple and the leader of the group once more.
We will never know what would have happened to Judas if he had returned to the upper room. But looking at Jesus’s forgiveness for Peter, it would be the same. No matter what we have done or said, whether we have cursed Jesus or denied being a Christian when it was tough or dangerous. We can never be too far away from his forgiveness.
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Simon shook his head. “I feel sorry for Judas. What’s the difference between him and me? I betrayed Jesus too … I refused to acknowledge I’d even met Jesus and, to my shame even cursed him. Why didn’t Judas come back here? Jesus would have forgiven him as he forgive me, and he could still have been one of our group.”
Leaving Bethany page 133
If you enjoyed this blog why not check out the others in the series
Lent Pilgrimage Week One: Lent Stories
Lent Pilgrimage Week Two: A King Like No Other
Lent Pilgrimage Week Three: Everyday Stuff
Lent Pilgrimage week Four: Agony in the Garden
Susan Sutherland is the author of three books. To buy Leaving Bethany and the sequel Return to Caesarea please go to the buy page.
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