Lent Day 12: Matthew 25-26

I’ll be honest, this is really more about Matthew 26 than 25.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells parables regarding preparation for him coming again, which was the topic of my last post. The end of Matthew 25 I covered in this post from January.

Matthew 26, however, covers the start of the fulfilment of Jesus’ mission. He has spent his time teaching and preparing his followers for this time and beyond. Now, it’s here.

It’s characterised by the contrasting reactions of the protagonists and antagonists of the story.

The Pharisees are worried. They have been looking, for much of Jesus’ ministry, for a reason to kill him. They fear that he endangers their hold over the people and their religion by constantly questioning their interpretation of God’s law. They have tried, many times, to catch him out, but in vain. They have had opportunity after opportunity to do it, but their cowardice has prevented it. Until now.

Suddenly a chance for someone else to do the work has arisen, from an unexpected quarter. Judas Iscariot, of of the 12, is willing to sell his teacher out for 30 pieces of silver (the going rate for a slave at the time). We don’t hear in Matthew what his motivation may be, but to turn traitor is the ultimate coward’s act. To give up all you have believed in for a bit of money when the going may be about to get tough is weak and pathetic.

These are words Peter would probably have used to describe himself. A man big on words, but when the chips were down where was he?

By Jesus’ side? No.

Outside the temple, declaring Jesus’ innocence? No.

Planning some sort of rescue effort? No.

No. The man who said he would die alongside Jesus rather than disowning him is, as Jesus predicted, disowning him. Not once, but three times in increasingly forceful terms. Why? Because he is scared for his life. Because his faith has taken a hammer blow. Because he has forgotten all he has been taught.

Unlike Judas, Peter will live to fight another day. Many days and many fights. He will become the rock Jesus said he would be. But for now, he’s just a broken shell of a man. A coward.

The coward’s option is the easy option. One which we are all tempted by at times. Some will tell you that it’s an evolutionary mechanism designed to ensure self-preservation. This may well be true, I mean, what use are we if we’re dead? Of course, we may survive, through our own endeavours or through God’s, so the result may not be death. We may be persecuted, ostracized, ignored by loved ones, mocked, beaten or any number of horrible outcomes for standing up and being counted.

But what use are we if that happens. If we’re turned into a nobody. Or a dead nobody.

Well, a lot of use, it may turn out.

There is one man here who puts the right thing, the Father’s will, ahead of his own wellbeing.

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39 NIV)

Be under no illusions. Jesus didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to suffer the agonies ahead of him. But then, if he did want to there’d be no point in it. If it wasn’t horrific, violent, unbearable then it wouldn’t achieve its aims. To take on our punishment and give us a path to God.

However, despite his fear and terror, he recognises that it’s not his will, but the Father’s will which needs to be done. In the face of worse horrors than the Pharisees, Judas or Peter could even comprehend, he submits to what his Father wants.

We will probably not face a life or death decision over our faith, although some may. At some stage, though, we will all be asked to stand up and do the right thing. To do God’s will rather than ours or the will of those around us. The outcomes will be unpleasant, possibly unbearable, but they will be worth it.

So, what do we do?

Tongue tied

In my last few posts I have been very open about my Christian faith. This has come as a surprise to some. Not because they didn’t know, but because I hardly ever talk about it, if ever at all.

Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:8, tells us not to be ashamed of the Gospel. That’s what I worry that my reticence in sharing my faith verbally comes across as, but it really isn’t. The fact is that I am just really rubbish at it. I mean terrible. I want to talk about Jesus, but when I try I just come out with something which is so weak that it does no justice to Him whatsoever. I stumble over my words, can’t find the right thing to say and sound almost half hearted. I may as well be talking about leather exports from Paraguay and the socio-economic impact of declining cow populations in South America for all the knowledge I show about the subject.

I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have a fear of coming across like, well, a weirdo. I mean more of one than I already do. Not that the subject matter is weird to me, it is far from that. It’s more that I don’t feel confident in my ability to strike the right balance between passion and beating people around the head with a Bible until they either submit or run away (metaphorically, not literally. Assault isn’t really my style). I have a real desire to share my faith and what I believe Jesus has done for us, but I am so conscious that many are not too interested, or even hostile to the Gospel, that I am terrified of saying too much or something really stupid and putting people off. This seems to hold my tongue back from managing to say anything at all.

The other reason is that I actually feel more comfortable writing about stuff which I find important or personal than I do talking about it. My post where I mentioned my depression was the first time nearly everyone who knows me had heard about it, because I’m happier communicating in this way, and the same goes with my faith. I can talk easily to people, but usually about trivial stuff, work stuff or other people’s issues rather than my own. This is a really good outlet for me and I’m finding unloading things I find important on this blog to be very therapeutic.

I have a lot of sympathy with Peter. Yes, He was the “rock” who Jesus built His Church on and he preached some wonderful sermons after Jesus’ resurrection as well as writing two wonderful letters which were included in the New Testament, but he was seriously clumsy with his words, especially around Jesus. He was a man with a knack of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but God used what he had, built on it and enabled Peter to shape something amazing.

So I’ll use what I’ve been given. I’m not the writer or public speaker Peter was, but they’re where I’m most comfortable and most eloquent (I think!), so that’s what I’ll do. If God wants me for more He’ll let me know and equip me to do it.