“Very truly, I tell you, one of your will betray me.” John 13:21b
I woke up this morning with a sense of well-being. I love when that happens. We are in our last week of Lent – Holy Week, and while there is dread over what what we must face this week; there is still a sense of peace, knowing what lies at the other side. So it seems like the perfect time to ask myself, what if I did not have that assurance of the risen Christ. What if I, like the disciples, were experiencing this week for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen next? What if I had given up everything I had to follow the most amazing teacher the world had ever known, a teacher that I loved more than I loved even my own family, and now here he was telling me that by the end of the week he would be dead, and I would turn my back on him? Would I have even slept last night, much less woken up with a sense of well-being? Yesterday we confessed that “we do not and cannot believe that in a few days we will be among those who will turn our backs and run from his presence,” and something struck home as I wondered are we just saying these words, or do we really mean them?
Sometimes it is hard to keep in mind that we have the benefit of 2000 years’ worth of hindsight as I smugly and secretly think to myself that I, unlike the disciples, would never turn my back on Jesus. It is hard to keep in mind that all the disciples had to hang on to were his reassurances of what surely seemed unimaginable if not impossible. This week we will experience the Passion symbolically, knowing the script by heart, and knowing that the ending is our beginning; we will rest assured knowing that death has been overcome and that God’s kingdom is at hand. From our perspective it is difficult to identify with the unknowing disciples who watched as everything crumbled around them while they wondered if everything they loved and cared about would soon be lost forever.
So what would it be like if things started to go hideously awry for followers today? What if everything we believe about resurrection, redemption, love, justice and the kingdom of God were being threatened and we had to choose a side? What if the church were to suddenly vanish, and we had three days to contemplate the loss, the grief, and the fear? We don’t experience any of that; we don’t even entertain the idea of the possibility. We believe ourselves to be well past all of that – on the other side of things where we reap the benefits of the disciples’ greatest hours of agony. Our Holy Week is about remembering and anticipating; but we do not ever face that gut-wrenching fear of uncertainty. Is that a good thing or is it a bad thing? I don’t know. I leave that for all of us to ponder this week…