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“I am telling you the truth: one of you is going to betray me.” - Jesus, John 13:21
Think with me for a moment. Would you prefer your wife (husband, girl/boy friend, or whatever) to betray you, abandon you, or deny you? Those are your three options. You have to pick one. Which of those three would you prefer? My wife's immediate response was "None! They are all just as bad." And I have to agree.
True. We can engage in a philosophical dissection of each of those activities and their implications but the reality is that if we had to pick it would be hard. Would I prefer for my wife to betray me by running off with another man? Abandon me by leaving me with an "I'm out of here" note on the fridge and never coming back? Or deny that she ever even knew me? In a sense, each of those is betrayal.
The interesting thing is that when it comes to Jesus betrayal we only ever focus on Judas. Yes he betrayed Jesus. But the Bible also says that the disciples abandoned him when he was arrested. One even ran away naked. It also tells us that Peter denied ever knowing him with swearing and cursing. Whose sin was the worst? Judas for betraying Jesus? The 11 other disciples for taking off when the guards came to arrest him? Or Peter for swearing he had never even heard of him?
I'm not even going to attempt answering that question. Quite honestly I don't care. The point is, they all turned their backs on Jesus. Is there anything I can learn from this? I believe so and here it is: Every person in this world will ultimately do one of three things: Betray him, deny him, or abandon him.
Betrayal. This seems to be the most intentional of the bunch. Those who betray Jesus often, like Judas, do so intentionally. They purposefully and consciously turn their back on Jesus.
Abandonment. This seems to be the least intentional of the bunch. Most people who abandon Jesus don't do so because they hate him or have anything against him. Most of the time the abandonment is due to negligence more than intentionality. They neglect their relationship with Jesus and one day they wake up and realize that they are far away from him. Sadly, many others never wake up.
Denial. This one is neither intentional nor neglectful. Instead, it seems to be related to self confidence. Peter swore he would never deny Jesus. He wasn't lying. He really did think he never would. Many Christians, like Peter, think they are firm as a rock and would never deny their Jesus. But the story of Peter shows us that we should never get cocky in our spiritual walk. Many have done so but when the crisis came they denied Jesus in a heartbeat.
So if all of these are so bad why did Jesus not say, "one of you will be tray me, one of you will deny me, and the rest of you will abandon me"? The reality is he did. In Matthew 26:31 Jesus said to his disciples, "You will all fall away because of Me this night..." in verse 34 he says to Peter "you will deny me..." and in John 13:21 he said, "one of you will betray me". Jesus expected all of it but he also knew that all of them, with the exception of Judas, would repent. And this is the key. While we may all have betrayed, abandoned, and denied Jesus in the past God still gives us the gift of repentance and forgiveness. The disciples accepted that gift and had an amazing relationship with God from then on. Judas denied it and his life ended in suicide.
Betrayed. Abandoned. Denied. Which would you prefer? If I had to pick I would say it doesn't matter. They are all terrible. Jesus experienced them all. And yet he was loving enough to forgive and restore those weak men to friendship with him and they turned the world upside down. Have you betrayed, abandoned, or denied Jesus? Don't end up like Judas. God loves to forgive. Accept His gift of forgiveness and repentance. Come back to him. He will welcome you with a smile.