John 13:36-38 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "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? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
No one calls their son Judas.
This is the poignant pain of the Easter story. Fear causes friend to turn on friend. This is a familiar story: Marcus Brutus betrays his friend Julius Caesar; Benedict Arnold betrays his family and country because he was humiliated by George Washington; or Japan betrays the Allied powers. Because I am in Japan at the moment, let me pause with this example: In the First World War Japan joined the Allied powers and fought the German colonial forces in East Asia. However, this friendship was irrevocably shattered in December 1941 when Japan attacked the Allied powers at Pearl Harbour and several other points throughout the Pacific region. Japanese resentment of arrogant racial discrimination against them by the Western powers since the forced opening of the country in the 1800s finally boiled over in betrayal.
However, few of us can easily condemn the betrayer – because we know this impulse only too well. Our betrayals cover the range from sharing the secret we should have kept, or failure to speak up for a friend’s reputation - to stealing money kept in trust, or initiating/thinking of a relationship outside of our marriage.
Easter is a time when all our betrayals can come to an end. This becomes an opportunity to put to rest the past hurts and resentments and allow a fresh beginning. Before you cynically insist that ‘fresh beginnings’ are impossible, I will return to the Japanese illustration I used earlier. Right now I am witness to a new beginning. I encounter Japanese people who welcome English-speaking tourists with kindness and friendship. I see healthy business relationships between Japan and the West.
And I am able to hear Jesus say – “New beginnings are possible’.
To serve him is to know
Life's true reward.
May he our lives amend,
All our betrayals end:
Give me your hand, my friend:
JESUS IS LORD!
Fred Pratt Green
Easter SundayChrist Lives
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.142