Monday, March 25, 2013

Jesus, Judas and Peter

Jesus had twelve Apostles who were his close confidants in his ministry. He certainly felt a closeness with the sons of Zebedee, John and James and he instructed all of them. Some might have been related, cousins, like Jude and his brother James but none where more intimately bound to Jesus in their destiny than Peter and Judas.  What we know is found in the Gospels and tradition, word passed on from generation to generation.

Peter was a widower when Jesus came upon him. He had at least one son who became a follower of The Way. Peter was apparently taking care of his mother-in-law as the Gospels point out she was sick and Jesus cured her ills and then she waited upon them. Peter was a business man. He also worked in the business. Apparently he was a big bruiser and some tradition says he wasn't afraid of a fight if one came his way. The boat he owned wasn't a big fishing trawler rather an over-sized,  heavy open boat which had to be rowed and maybe had sails. They fished with nets. When the fishing was good the nets would fill up and one had to have good back, arms and legs muscles to be able to get the boat and the fish back to shore. When his day was over he was tired but some say he relaxed at what could be called the neighborhood pub only wine was drunk not beer. Peter's brother, Andrew, also an Apostle, was the first to get Peter's interest in Jesus. But Peter probably figured his brother was always following some so called prophet or another, after all didn't he follow that Baptist fellow around. Peter wasn't looking for any cause after all his wife left him early, he had a family including his mother-in-law as well as a business to take care of. The boat had to be maintained as did the nets so it wasn't just going out into Lake Galilee and fish in the sun, like the song "Lazy Bones" says. This took hard work, long hours and an ever increasing knowledge of when and where to fish. One gets the feeling Peter, Simon as he was called in those days, liked to work, play and laugh hard. When Jesus saw him he knew he had a charismatic something about him. He recognized the leadership skills. He certainly was a big guy and Jesus knew immediately Peter would be the rock on which he would build his church. Peter in turn was immediately attracted to Jesus and he would do whatever he wanted because he instinctively felt all the other matters, family, business and the like would take care of themselves. So he left everything and followed this itinerant preacher. And for the first three years it was a ball, all sorts of crazy things were happening. Crowds were building. Money was flowing in from Jesus' followers and was given back to the community almost immediately. Miracles were occurring without a break, the blind would see, lepers were healed, a multitude was fed with only seven fishes and loafs of bread with left overs, no less. Peter had to rein in his impulsiveness and had to hold back his temper. He had to control himself even when he thought Jesus was being taken advantage of. He and his fellow travelers were scolded more than once for staring at a pretty girl. Jesus wanted them to respect everything and everyone. Peter loved being one of Jesus' close confidants. Things were getting a little sticky though, the Jewish authorities were trying to say that Jesus was becoming too big for his britches. He was challenging them and that was no good. Some actually thought Jesus was blasphemous. Others were like any politician of any day trying to keep their position at all costs.

Three years into the ministry they sent soldiers to get Jesus. Peter couldn't let this happen. He still carried his knife used to gut fishes and when one solider made a move on Jesus Peter stood up and slashed the guys ear off. There was blood all over the place. Peter was ready for a fight. Peter was ready to die at Jesus' side. And Jesus said he would deny him three times! Peter was ready to go down in glory but he was going to take a few soldiers with him. But wait, Jesus was admonishing him. He told Peter to put away his weapon, picked up the ear and miraculously reattached it and the blood stopped. The soldiers grabbed Jesus and dragged him away. Peter was confused. Peter for the first time was frightened. Peter didn't understand. He followed Jesus to the high priest quarters, Herod's and back and finally to the Roman Governor's place. Sure as shooting Peter denied him three times vehemently. Confused, battered, and afraid he wept when they dragged Jesus to Golgotha. They strung Jesus up like a common criminal and in disgrace Peter watched the person he loved die. A-midst all the confusion, guilt and misunderstanding Peter never fell into the despair that he committed a grave sin and would never be forgiven. He felt he should have given his life to be at the side of Jesus even though Jesus didn't fight as Peter would have fought. Peter was rewarded with this faith, with never falling into despair, hopelessness. Peter became a great figure beloved throughout history and probably until the end of time even though he too finally was crucified, upside down at his request for he felt such a great love and reverence for Jesus that he couldn't allow himself the dignity of dying a supposedly ignominious death exactly like Jesus.

Not much is said about Judas Iscariot and what is said or written isn't very nice. We know he was a Zealot. What was Jesus thinking taking a Zealot, a fanatic, into his peaceful loving group? Jesus didn't make mistakes about who he wanted with him so he chose this Zealot who belonged to a party that wanted a  revolution and death to the Roman conquerors. On top of all that he put him in charge of the treasury which at the height of Jesus' popularity must have been overflowing. My guess is Judas was never very popular with the other eleven guys. Judas must have been thinking that Jesus was the Messiah that was going to lead a successful revolution. Imagine how disappointed he was when he finally realized that just wasn't going to happen. Jesus picked him so I guess he must of loved him. Jesus wasn't a fool he knew that Judas was a marked man and was destined to betray him. Judas it is said in one of the Gospels was stealing from the treasury. I bet he was siphoning some cash off to the Zealot groups that wanted to overthrow the occupation. I really feel that Judas loved Jesus and that was shown when he threw the bribery, blood money, back at the priests, thirty two pieces of silver, he never took it. He was in fear, yes, but he was suddenly confronted with the severity of what he did. If he hated Jesus he would have taken the money for his cause, or to celebrate instead he threw it back in the faces of the Priests and ran away finally hanging himself in the fit of despair. I believe that he snapped and he had a mental breakdown. I believe he both loved Jesus and hated the fact that there would be no violent overthrow of the occupying Roman forces. Like Peter, he was a broken man. Unlike Peter he couldn't live with himself so out of grief with the full realization of what he had done he snapped. Like Peter he will be remembered until this earth disintegrates. He will be remembered however as traitor, an anti-hero and it is a shame. Jesus did say that the person who betrays him would be better off if he wasn't born but I don't read hatred or anger in that, I read love, empathy, sympathy for one of Jesus' own who had to suffer deeply until he broke so that a prophesy could be fulfilled.

I think that somehow we all have a bit of Peter and a bit of Judas within us. We can be the hero or the anti-hero. We can rise above our failures or succumb to bitterness and despair leading to self destruction. One thing I am sure of, with no proof to back it up, Jesus welcomed them both into his kingdom and told them tears will no longer be shed, only smiles, peace laughter and good wine will be served in his kingdom.                     
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