Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

My husband and I read the Bible for our morning devotions and I normally back up a couple texts from the previous day's reading just to get the context before going into the next chronological reading. 

This morning, we were supposed to start at the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, so I backed up to the section of John 13:31. This passage is set during the Last Supper and begins right after Judas left the room to go and betray Christ. Now Jesus is sitting with the eleven disciples and is telling them that He is going somewhere where they cannot come. Peter then announces that he wants to go--and insists that he would go with Christ even if it is to death (ironic, isn't it? That is just where Jesus is going.)

I paused when we got to 14:1. I reread it. Then again.

What? I have read this more than a hundred times and never noticed something. Every time the first verse of John 14 is read, it is read as if it is separated from the rest of Christ's monologue. However, if you connect the first verse of chapter 14 to the last on of chapter 13, a new understanding pops out. 


Jesus: I will be with you only a little longer... Where I am going you cannot come. 

Peter asks where Jesus is going and why he cannot come with him. Peter insists that he would lay his life down for his Master. 

Jesus responds: You will disown me three times before the rooster crows. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still; trust also in me. 

There was no break in the message. Jesus is still speaking to Peter when He says, "Let not your heart be troubled." Jesus is telling Peter that after he betrays Him, not to be disheartened. 

(Although the Greek noun "heart" is singular, some translations place it as plural--so it is unclear whether Jesus is saying this specifically to Peter or to the group. My guess is that, though He may be specifically targeting Peter with this, the message is for all His apostles who are listening.)

To repeat, Jesus is telling Peter that even though he will betray Him, don't allow this to dishearten him or the other Apostles. 

This message is in the context of Peter's betrayal. We often separate Jesus words here as if He was speaking to Peter about his denying Him three times, then Jesus makes an abrupt stop and begins speaking to all Christians at all times. That certainly isn't in the context. 

What hit me this morning is that Jesus is telling Peter as the head of the Church, that he is going to betray Him, but that he should not allow that to stop him. Be of good courage, because Jesus said this will happen. Then--he admonishes Peter-- continue to believe in God and in Him (the Christ); for Jesus is going to prepare a place for His disciples and then He is going to come back and get them. 

The whole group will need to remember this when they see Peter--as the appointed head, Simon the Rock, betray Christ. The head of the Apostles betraying his Master is bound to cause the rest of them to crash in their faith. 

Jesus is bucking them up and saying... Hey, when all of you see Simon Peter, my leader, deny me, don't worry. Keep believing in me. You can know this is true because I am telling you beforehand. Do not allow the failings of the head of the Apostles cause you to lose your faith, get back up again and persevere. 

Now to bring this message to today. 

Often, we as Catholics see our leaders as less than courageously following Christ. We may even believe the pope himself is betraying Christ. 

Jesus foretold this was going to happen. The Rock, Peter, can and will deny Christ in his behavior. And if Peter can betray Christ, so will his successors. 

Like His Apostles, Jesus says to us when we see this happen, "Let not your heart be troubled, trust in God still." 

While I see nothing in Pope Francis that is betraying Christ, I find the words of Jesus rather comforting when it comes to some of our bishops. Because of their lack of courage when it comes to boldly standing up for truth, I feel at times it is a type of betrayal of Christ. 

Jesus is telling me that if Peter did it, His other leaders will less than stellar leaders. Don't let that trip you up and despair. Believe in Him still. He's preparing many rooms in His mansion for us. And He's coming back to get us. Persevere in our faith. His Church will withstand even the failings of His Apostles.