I just happen to be nearing the end of Matthew in my reading. It coincides nicely with the Lenten period. And it makes me think.
The stories of denial and betrayal of Jesus by his closest companions, of those who for three years were his friends and disciples, are hard to read in the sense that they are difficult to comprehend emotionally. They must have been hard to write. Yet the authors of all the gospels record them.
We bloggers like to record our thoughts – especially our brilliant ideas – or our interesting experiences, funny incidents; events happening in the world, politics and faith. But our failures? Not so often. However that is just what the writers of the gospels did – they recorded their failures. They recorded their blindness and incomprehension. They recorded with an incredible honesty – even down to their words of personal betrayal.
“Oh, we will never betray you,” they promise. “We will follow you to death.” And then they turn and run. They cower in the shadows. They deny they know him. They scatter.
Some of the women follow at a distance – those insignificant women who could continue to follow safely because, being women, they were of no account as a physical or political threat to the authorities. Maybe this is one of those paradoxes; their weak position in society provided the needed cover for their strength, their freedom to continue to follow right to the cross.
The honesty of these accounts brings me hope on a couple of counts. Jesus knows how to work with failures. These disciples who failed at the most crucial moment went on to be transformed into strong leaders. The power that made the difference in them is also there for me – Jesus promised us that.
The honesty also helps to validate the stories for me. This is not an egotistical account of some people full of a scheme they had carried off. No one enjoys exposing their faults to all. This was really what happened, told by the ones who went from being total wimps to forgiven, honest, willing to die for their faith kind of men.