Dinner parties are supposed to be fun. People dress up and gather together over great food and perhaps some wine, to catch up, tell stories, and enjoy one another’s company. Tonight will not be that kind of party. Tonight is a night where the story of the world is changing. Jesus will give his final instructions. He will tell his friends that not only is one of them going to deny him, another about to betray him, but he will be taken prisoner and will be leaving them. And they will all run away. Talk about a bummer of a dinner.
Peter, never one to be silent, has of course spoken up and demanded to know who will betray. Jesus tells Judas to his face, that he is the one, and things are getting awkward. Peter swears he will not deny, he will not run, and he says it like he means it;
John 13:36-38 (ESV)
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Things are unraveling quickly now. The disciples must be in shock hearing the news that Jesus will be leaving them. They have followed this man for 3 years. He was going to be their savior, their leader, their king, and now he’s going away? Certainly this is not how things were supposed to go, certainly Jesus yet again has another trick up his sleeve or unexpected solution to the problems they now face. Their questions will go unanswered though, their fear will continue to grow, because they do not have time to talk. Jesus wants to be going to the garden to pray, and since he is the only thing they know and believe in right now, they follow him.
There have been so many times in my life where I did not know the right thing to do or the right person to trust. Times when I feel lost and adrift in a sea and I don’t even know which direction to turn and swim towards. I know I cannot be the only one. There must be times in every life where up is not a direction to be facing, but a hope and a prayer. Things around us are happening at a pace we cannot sustain and we grab onto the safest, most solid thing we can and hang on for dear life. Like a tornado ripping through a town, or a hurricane pounding the shoreline – we wait for it to be over – and we assess the damage. It is in those moments I hope I can cling to Jesus. Not turn from him, not rely on something or someone else, not deny or betray, but truly follow and know that no matter what awaits me on the other side of the storm – he will be there to help me put it back together.
The time for turning water into wine at weddings is over. There will be no more lame people healed or Lazarus’ raised from the dead. Judas has returned, and with a simple kiss, he has betrayed God like no other. For a moment there is chaos. Shouting, shoving, a sword is drawn, blood is flowing – and then, as he always does – Jesus knows just what to say. “Your sword won’t save you Peter, it’s not that kind of fight.” He surrenders himself willingly to his enemy, but not before healing him first. And just like that – he is gone, they all are. Swept away into the night, and there is only the silence of night in the garden.