I’m going to warn you in advance. This is not my usual post. This is more reflective of the holiday we are entering into, so I’m well aware that it won’t be for everyone.
I suspect, even if you aren’t a very “religious” person, that if you ever did the “going to church” thing in your life this particular season brings out the reflectiveness in you. Yes, there’s the secular world of Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts and more candy than any dentist is comfortable seeing, but for those of us who’ve either been raised in the church or spent some time going, we know the deeper meanings in this holiday.
Last night I performed for the first time in a Maundy Thursday service. Some know this service better by Holy Thursday or Covenant Thursday. Basically, it’s the day of The Last Supper of Christ, spent with his disciples. Although we did a few songs, it was the Negro Spiritual “Were You There” performed with a friend, Acapella in the dark that was the most personally moving. The darkness was symbolic of His death and burial. For those of you who haven’t heard the song before, here’s a lovely version. In fact, if you close your eyes and just listen, it will touch you.
Anyway, as I listened to the scripture readings last night, I found myself reflecting on the disciples, Peter in particular. I found it ironic that Peter was the one who came to Jesus asking about how often he should have to forgive. Peter thought forgiving someone 7 times was a lot back then, and Hebrew law would’ve agreed with him. That was generous! Jesus, however, told him 70 x 7…which back then translated to infinite.
As I thought about his conversation with Jesus that Thursday night when he said (and I believe he meant it) that he would never deny Him, I imagined how devastated he was on that Friday when the rooster crowed. There was no question Peter loved Jesus, but in that moment his fear overwhelmed him. On that day, when his faith was put to the test, he denied Jesus and their relationship.
I wonder if he had nightmares after that, of having denied Jesus for the third time only to hear the rooster crow, remember Jesus’ words and meeting Jesus’ eyes. I imagine the look in Jesus’ eyes was a blend of compassion, forgiveness and hurt. Then I started thinking about my own life.
There was a young girl who I considered to be one of my closest friends back in 5th grade. One day in Science class, while sitting at my lab table with my 3 other partners, she walked by my table. Just as she was passing, her arm shot out and punched me hard in the stomach. My three lab partners were outraged. They wanted to report her to the teacher. I stopped them.
“Why?” one of the boys asked. “She hit you. That’s not right.”
I shrugged. “Don’t. She’s hurting. She just found out her parents are getting divorced.”
“So that makes it okay to hurt you?” the other one asked.
“No,” I answered. “It’s not. But it was easier for her to hurt me than to hurt her parents the way that she feels they’re hurting her.”
Before you think I’m telling you this story to make myself out to be some sort of saint, don’t worry. I’m not egomaniacal. The truth is she hurt my feelings. She betrayed my trust and we were never friends again. I was also fairly young and innocent back then.
As I got older I learned to be less forgiving. More quick to react in kind. More likely to live out the “eye for an eye” concepts. In fact, my inability to forgive nearly cost me a valued friendship just recently. Sadly, the only crime my friend committed was being related to someone who’d hurt me. I should have been able to let it go, but I didn’t. And I talked about it. And talked about it. And talked about it. To her!
She was beyond patient with me, but the time came where she had finally had it. She snapped and said something. Someone innocent paying for the actions of another. Not at all cool. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think. It took months before she was finally ready to talk to me again. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she never did. I was insensitive, thoughtless and hurtful.
Two very different stories, aren’t they? It’s no wonder Jesus said we need to have hearts like children. Time and experience have a way of coloring our perspectives. So I think back to Peter with a better understanding of how humbling it must have been to realize just how much he now needed the forgiveness from his Master. Forgiving the unforgiveable. I bet he thought back to that day when he asked Jesus about it, grateful now, about his answer, realizing just how undeserving he was of that gift in that moment.
More importantly, it made me realize just how hurt Jesus probably was in the moment that Peter denied him, though he knew it was coming. His best friend, denying he even knew him at the biggest trial of his life. Personally, I’m grateful for his forgiving heart and for his sacrifice. Without it, this world would be a hopeless place.
So my question to you guys… What does this holiday mean to you? Do you celebrate Good Friday? There is no judging here. Please don’t misunderstand. These are simply my personal beliefs and not meant to reflect anyone else’s.
Here’s a song that I feel reflects exactly why God is so good.