Band of brothers
I used to have a band of brothers.
When I first came to Christ in faith I had a group of men around me. These men spurred me on to greater depth in Jesus. They encouraged me to pursue Him, to live in His Word, to pray fervently and to love the brothers.
We did stuff together. We laughed, we cried, we confessed our sins to one another, we went on adventures together, we dreamed of growing old together and having stories to tell our children and grandchildren.
Mostly we followed our King together.
Somewhere along the way I lost that. I didn’t lose those friends but I just drifted. Somewhere along the way I allowed the pace of life to get me distracted and I stopped hanging out with guys like that; men who would pour their hearts into me and let me pour mine into them; men who didn’t shy away from the hard stuff.
As I read the Gospels, I am shaken constantly by how much time Jesus spent with his disciples, but especially with three of them. Now, we can argue if you like about whether Jesus had “favorites” or not but the reality is that Jesus poured out a lot into that group of 12 men and especially into that group of three: Peter, James and John.
They lived their lives together. They walked the dusty roads of Israel together, they shared meals together, they laughed and cried together, they learned together at the feet of the Master and Friend. (I wonder if Jesus performed the marriage ceremony for Peter?)
Jesus had a band of brothers.
Now I know that Jesus was doing a lot of that because He was getting ready to launch the Church with those men. I know that Jesus did all things intentionally and we would do well to learn from that.
But I also believe that Jesus enjoyed what He did. He laughed at their jokes, made fun of their snoring, read the Word with them, taught them to pray, and maybe even watched them fall in love. Can you imagine the joy that Jesus must have felt as He watched those young men become who they became? They would become the ground floor of what we now call the Church! What joy Jesus must have felt.
And what sorrow.
He knew that those very men that He poured into would betray Him. He knew they would turn their backs on Him, deny Him and run away to protect themselves. Jesus knew the risks when He befriended them and chose them to follow Him. And knowing those risks, He did it anyway.
Sure, you can argue that Jesus was God and so knew everything that was going to happen. And that would be true.
But He did it anyway.
Why would He do that? Aside from the obvious reason that He would use them to build His Church, I want to suggest another reason.
Jesus befriended and walked with these men because He needed to. He needed to be in relationship with those men in order to be fully human. So that we would know what it looks like to be fully human, fully alive, Jesus showed us that we need to be in relationship not only with Him but with each other. We need each other.
Despite the pain that comes with it.
Despite the disappointment.
Despite the messiness of it all.
Despite the fact that He knew they would turn away from Him in His hour of deepest need.
Jesus was showing us what it means to be fully alive. He was showing us that we need each other desperately. We need to laugh and love and weep and fight and eat with and shout at and engage in the messiness of life with each other because to be human, to be in the image of God, means to be in relationship.
This is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, that we serve a God who is eternally three-in-one. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are in eternal union with each other as individual parts of One whole. I don’t understand that and neither do you. But we can all acknowledge, if we’re biblical Christians, that it’s true.
And if the Trinity is in communion with each other, how much more do we need to be in community with each other, submitted to the lordship of King Jesus together?
I used to have a band of brothers.
By God’s grace, one day we will all be free to be who we are without shame, living our lives in the light of Jesus’ eternal physical presence with open hands and open hearts. And then we will all know the joy of true brotherhood with one another and with Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I denied Jesus yesterday.
I didn’t, like, stand up in public with a microphone and say, “Jesus isn’t real,” or anything like that. I didn’t post about my denial on Facebook, ‘cause we all know it’s not official until it’s FB official. Am I right?
But I denied him.
Right to his face.
I told him that I regretted following him, that my life was a lot easier before I followed him, that things made way more sense and there was way less pain before he found me and I heard his call and followed him. I told him, using not nice words, that my whole life for the last 7 years or so had been pain on top of pain. Strangely enough, he didn’t strike me dead.
Pain makes us do some weird things, I’m learning. I’ve heard it said that we see our true character come out during hard times. I don’t know if I agree with that completely ‘cause pain can make you do things that you ordinarily may not ever do. Fear can do that also.
The Apostle Peter, before he was known as the Apostle Peter, knew this to be true also. Mark’s gospel records it for us this way,
“And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:66-72)
Before we go all judgmental on our brother Peter, let’s put ourselves in his position for a second. Everything he had come to believe in was disintegrating right before his eyes. The one he had proclaimed as Lord and Christ, the Son of God, was being beaten and mocked before his very eyes. His very identity was being beaten to death. His whole world was coming apart in front of his eyes and he was powerless to stop it.
Don’t be too hard on Peter. He was afraid. He was in pain.
What would you do?
What would you do if all you had come to believe was blown apart in front of your face, if the one you said was God and Lord and Christ seemed powerless to stop what was happening, if your very identity had been taken from you and stripped naked and beaten before your eyes, if your whole world was coming apart and you were powerless to stop it?
What would you do?
I’ll tell you what I’ve done recently, what I did yesterday. I denied Jesus. Just like Peter, I turned my back on him. Oh I didn’t deny him in front of people. Only he could hear me say what I said to him. Only he heard me say, “I wish I’d never followed you.”
And then this morning I was walking my daughter to school. She has yelled at her sister. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: “You yelled at your sister this morning. I know you did that because you’ve heard me yell at you. I’m sorry that I yelled at you and now you think that’s okay. Don’t be like me. It’s not okay to yell. We need to be kind to each other, like Jesus. I need you to help me. Will you remind me to be kind?”
Her: “I forgive you, Daddy. I’ll help you.”
And I began to cry.
In that moment, my daughter showed me the love of my Saviour. She forgave me and said she would help me. That’s what Jesus does when we repent. That’s what Jesus does when we bring our brokenness to him and say ugly things to him and deny him. He says, “I forgive you. I’ll help you.”
Your pain is real. Your fear is real.
So is mine.
But we have a loving Saviour and Friend, who is Jesus Christ our Lord, who forgives us just like he did Peter. I hope this encourages you today, friend, wherever you are and whatever you are going through. Even when we turn our backs on Jesus, he doesn’t turn his back on us. He will forgive you. He will help you.
That’s called grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!