Summary: Jesus understands us as we are, but loves us into what we may become. With Peter, he loved the Type A person; with James, the passive-aggressive; with John, the immature -- all into effectiveness. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church
History is full of stories of betrayal. Those who look like friends sometimes turn on you. Some of us have friends who would sell us for even less than Judas’ thirty pieces of silver if they could!
Personally, I wish I could get at least ten cents on the dollar for everything I have loaned to friends over the years. Everything from cash to books to power tools has been loaned. And if it came back at all, it was damaged or used up. I let a friend use my saber saw once; I thought he knew what he was doing. But he used that little delicate saw to cut down a heavy metal pole, and burned my little saw right up. He then avoided me for several weeks. You know what that feels like? That feels like a personal betrayal. It wasn’t about the tool. It was about being a friend and expecting friendly treatment. But what we get, too many times, is betrayal. That stings.
We all know about Jesus’ obvious enemies – the Pharisees, who hated His spiritual freedom; the priests, who felt threatened by His disdain for their religiosity; the political zealots, disappointed that He had not led an uprising against Rome; the Romans themselves, who were unhappy about another crazy candidate for Messiah. We know about Jesus’ more obvious enemies.
But the most dangerous enemies Jesus had were among His friends! The most dangerous people around Him were those in His inner circle of disciples. They didn’t sound like betrayers. They looked like friends, good and true. And yet, with friends like Peter, James, and John, who needs enemies?
But Jesus knew how to deal with His friends. He knew how to transform their weaknesses into strengths. He knew how to take their insecurities and turn them into loyalties. He understood how to change His friends’ issues into magnificent possibilities. Jesus did it by getting real with His friends. Jesus got real with Peter and with James and with John. What they were on that night in Gethsemane is not the half of what they became, because Jesus got real with His friends.
As we think about this theme, I want you to notice that there was one fundamental principle that Jesus followed in getting real with His friends: He both understood them and He believed in them. He understood how weak they were, but He loved them for their potential. He trusted them, even though it would hurt Him and send Him to a cross. He said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That means that He understood them for what they were, but He loved them for what they could become. Jesus got real with His friends, and so transformed them.
Let’s follow those friends. Let’s find out where they were coming from that night in the garden. And let’s discover where Jesus took them when He got real with His friends.
There’s Peter, for one. Novelist Lloyd Douglas dubbed him “the big fisherman”. “Big” is right. Everything about Peter was larger than life. When Jesus first called Peter, Peter immediately left his fishing net to follow. When he learned about his mother-in-law’s illness, at once Peter took Jesus to her bedside. When Jesus went off to rest and pray, it was Peter who went looking for the Master, not content to be quiet. Peter is a Type A personality: get it done, do it now, say what you feel, don’t stop to look inside, chop, chop! I want this done yesterday! Do you know anybody like that?
But Jesus got real with Peter. Jesus understood him, but Jesus also knew how to love him for what he could become. When Peter blurted out the confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Highest,” and then followed it with the pronouncement that he would never let anything happen to Jesus, Jesus faced him down with, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus got real with Peter, and had to do it again and again .. warning him that he would deny three times in one night, telling him that if he did not accept the gift of foot-washing he could not be a part of the movement. Again and again, Jesus forced His way through Peter’s bluster and made him face himself.
Do you have any friends like Peter? People who talk a great game but who seldom deliver the goods? People who promise the world but give you only cold checks when payday comes? Do you have any friends like Peter, who cannot tell you “No”? If you ask them to help you, they are so eager to please. Peters are people-pleasing persons with a powerful passion to pacify! But they are not there when the going gets tough. It feels like a betrayal, doesn’t it?