When you can’t make it right

Holy Tuesday Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 70(71):1-6,15,17 John 13:21-33,36-38

Some wrongs are so wrong there is nothing you can do to make it right.

The parent who neglects their child.
The business partner who steals from their colleague.
The spouse who cheats.

Some wrongs are so wrong there is nothing you can do to make it right.

Persecuting those whose skin colour isn’t your own.
Enslaving human beings and exporting them across the ocean like cattle.
Organised murder of those you don’t like or want.

Some wrongs are so wrong there is nothing you can do to make it right.

Peter had been called from his nets and boats to follow Jesus. He was known as Simon back then. But Jesus sees a new man ready to be born. He is called Rock. Steady. Reliable. Sometimes it seems as though his head is full of them, too.

Jesus gradually discloses himself to Peter in miracle after miracle, in words of teaching in public and in winding riddles in private. Peter went with Jesus up to the mountain where for that brief moment he saw through the veil of Christ’s flesh to behold the radient glory known only to the most exalted prophets of God. In Jesus Peter sees something worth sticking around for even when others walk away.

And that curiosity, that love and devotion, culminates in the staggering realisation that this Jesus who called him from his nets is truly the Messiah promised by God “to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel, to become a light of the nations so that salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”. Met by disbelief and incredulity, doubt and suspicion Peter is the first disciple to know who Jesus truly is.

Friendship is a precious thing. It is a gift, and a gracious thing to live in real friendship, where you know the most hidden and vulnerable things about someone and they in turn know yours. I suppose the more things we feel as want to keep to ourselves the harder it becomes to make friends. It’s why we are usually better at it before we become adults. Much less to be ashamed of. A friend is the person who stands with you when you’re at your lowest. The one who won’t look away when you’re at your least lovable.

The wrongs that are so wrong there is nothing you can do to make them right seem most often to be when that friendship is betrayed-be that the friendship that undergirds a marriage or the friendship that binds a community. It is a crippling wound that changes the world. It cannot be undone.

In the hours following this meal together Jesus is betrayed by those he loved. Peter insists that he will not, that he will stand by him throughout his ordeal, even dying with him if that’s what it takes. But when Jesus is dragged before the High Priest, in the moment of decision when he was at the mercy of those who had conspired to murder him, Peter denies ever knowing him.

And so sad the word of Jesus is fulfilled. Not only the one about the rooster crowing, but also “Where I am going you cannot follow me now”. But it wasn’t that some trick of circumstance would prevent him doing what he otherwise would. He cannot follow him on this day of his Passion because he is afraid of the cost. He realises this far too late, too late to utter an apology. Jesus goes alone to his death and Peter reveals himseld as a liar and a fraud.

But the good news of the resurrection is that Peter is not left in this misery.

After he rises from the dead Jesus will meet Peter around a charcoal fire again. And in that moment he will ask him three times if he loves him. And three times Peter will take back his denial, and be reconciled to his friend.

Peter once confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the chosen King who would save the world. But there was something he didn’t yet know. He didn’t yet know he could be forgiven.

How fitting then that it is in this moment of reconciliation, and not in those moments of revelation much earlier, that Peter’s calling is given its substance. Because this is the Gospel he will feed God’s people with, the good news that when there is nothing you can do to make up for what you have done, Jesus forgives.

Resurrection life is not a life free of wounds. It is a life of healing wounds. May we bring ours to him as he goes to the cross for us, and receive from him a future we didn’t believe could be.

In this reflection we have considered only one of the traitors mentioned in today’s Gospel. Judas chooses to close himself off to the possibility of reconciliation in his despair. May we with Peter wait until the Third Day, confident that his word to us will be grace.

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