St Stephen 

March 25th, 1997 

Isaiah 49: 1-6 
John 13: 21-33, 36-30 

Tuesday in Holy Week 

Five Came Back

In his account of the last Supper, Saint John mentions several of the Apostles by name and tells us some of the things they said. Peter, John, Philip, Thomas, and the two Judases, Judas Iscariot and Judas not Iscariot all had their words recorded.

It was a fraught occasion. Everyone, including Jesus, was on edge "He was troubled in spirit" says Saint John.

What men say and how they behave when they are frightened is often more revealing than what they say at other times.

Peter's response to danger was to put on a show of strength. "I will lay down my life for you Lord" he said. Then when it came to the point not only did he run away like the others and the Garden of Gethsemane but he didn't even have the courage to admit that he knew Jesus when he was challenged. He was, you might say, a "fair weather Christian"; one who remains faithful while all was going well but who went absolutely do pieces when trouble started.

Then we have Judas Iscariot. A disappointed man. Someone who reckons that the game is up and decides to jump ship before it sinks. Fair enough; enlightened self-interest would have suggested just that. But Judas wanted to go further down the line. He wanted to make Jesus suffer for the disappointment he (Judas) experienced at his hands. Remember, all these men had given up family, houses, and job security to follow this extraordinary teacher. Now it looks as though the teacher has doubts about himself. At least is talking as if he can see the end of the line looming up. Perhaps Judas was one of those people will find close personal relationships difficult or threatening. We shall never know, I guess. But his parting gesture is not one of love but of disappointed hopes.

How very different from Saint John the disciple whom Jesus loved, who leaned upon his breast at the Last Supper. Although he too was to run away in the Garden of Gethsemane in sheer panic he turned up again within a couple of hours at the High Priest's House and succeeded in talking his way in accompanied by Saint Peter. And on Good Friday where is he? John is standing at the foot of the cross with our Lady and Mary Magdalen. These are three people whom love drives together, whatever the cost to themselves, to stand firm beside the one whom each in his own way loved so deeply.

So as the events unfold we can see a kind of hierarchy of reconciliation. First the Blessed Virgin Mary for whom there was no question of reconciliation. Mary of Magdalen comes next, someone whose life had been a mess but knew she had been saved by grace. Thirdly St John who simply knew a good man when he saw one. Later of course he was to discover who precisely this good man was, but until his eyes were opened by the Resurrection he was one of those people who "needs must love the highest when we see it".

Then later, much later there was Peter, not fully reconciled until he had taken upon himself the threefold Commission to "feed my sheep, feed my lambs, tend my little" In this he shares the burden placed upon the Suffering Servant of God which we heard in the first reading. "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth".

These five came back (some never left). But Judas, so far as we know, didn't. Not because Jesus wouldn't have him, but because he wouldn't have Jesus. Final, irrevocable apostasy or falling away from the means of grace and the hope of glory is always a possibility. Perhaps few people in the end choose it, but those who do, of all men, of the most to be pitied.

Return to Sermon Salad

Return to Trushare Home Page