Who wants to be a failure? No one that I know! We’d all like to succeed, whether we’re talking about our work or our personal lives. Most people would like to have good marriages and strong families, with kids who grow up to be happy and successful as well. We’d like our businesses to succeed so that we can earn enough money to get by on, as well as having a sense of pride and satisfaction in what we do. Most clergy that I know want to be pastors of successful churches – churches that are growing in numbers and growing in the good effect they’re having in their communities.
And I suspect that all of us here today would like to be successful in our Christian lives as well. We’d like to get better at reading the Bible and praying; we’d like to be stronger in our faith, more resolute in turning away from our sins and learning new habits that help us follow Jesus. We’d like to be growing more like Jesus with every year that goes by. Who wouldn’t want to be a successful Christian?
No, we don’t want to be failures who find ourselves falling back into sinful habits that we thought we’d gotten the better of. We don’t want to be people who let the Lord down. We don’t want to be people who are too scared to speak up for him when all our friends are dissing the Christian faith. We don’t want to be people who run away and abandon Jesus when he is arrested and taken to trial before the high priest and the Roman governor.
And that, or course, is exactly what the disciples we read about this morning had done. On the night before Jesus died, when he was arrested in the garden, they had run away and abandoned him to his fate. Peter and John were a little braver; they had followed the guards to the high priest’s house, and Peter had even gone into the courtyard. But there he was recognized, and his courage failed him, and he denied three times that he even knew Jesus.
Imagine the feelings of these men and women on the first Easter Sunday when they begin to hear strange stories about the empty tomb and the appearances of the risen Jesus. No doubt they felt as we would have felt. No doubt they were caught between joy and skepticism, not knowing whether they dared believe it. No doubt they were also caught between excitement and fear. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if it was true? If we really did see him alive again, we’d know for sure that he was right, and that he really was the Messiah God sent. But wait – what’s he going to say to us? Is he going to remember that we all abandoned him and ran away? You know what he’s like: if he’s frustrated or angry with us, he’s never slow about expressing it! Do you think he’s going to have any time for the likes of us, after what we did to him on Thursday night?”
Read the rest here.