Today’s story gets quite serious. Today’s lesson wasn’t one that we laughed and played games about. Today’s lesson talks of betrayal and denial. Is today’s lesson about us? Matthew 26: 47-75:
47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas arrived. He was one of the 12 disciples. A large crowd was with him. They were carrying swords and clubs. The chief priests and the elders of the people had sent them. 48 Judas, who was going to hand Jesus over, had arranged a signal with them. “The one I kiss is the man,” he said. “Arrest him.” 49 So Judas went to Jesus at once. He said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came to do.”
Then the men stepped forward. They grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 At that moment, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword. He pulled it out and struck the slave of the high priest with it. He cut off the slave’s ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “All who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I can’t ask my Father for help? He would send an army of more than 70,000 angels right away. 54 But then how would the Scriptures come true? They say it must happen in this way.”
55 At that time Jesus spoke to the crowd. “Am I leading a band of armed men against you?” he asked. “Do you have to come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courtyard teaching. And you didn’t arrest me. 56 But all this has happened so that the words of the prophets would come true.” Then all the disciples left him and ran away.
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest. The teachers of the law and the elders had come together there. 58 Not too far away, Peter followed Jesus. He went right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see what would happen.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for something to use against Jesus. They wanted to put him to death. 60 But they did not find any proof, even though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally, two other witnesses came forward. 61 They said, “This fellow claimed, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God. I can build it again in three days.’ ”
62 Then the high priest stood up. He asked Jesus, “Aren’t you going to answer? What are these charges that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I am commanding you in the name of the living God. May he judge you if you don’t tell the truth. Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But here is what I say to all of you. From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One. You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes. He said, “He has spoken a very evil thing against God! Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard him say this evil thing. 66 What do you think?”
“He must die!” they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face. They hit him with their fists. Others slapped him. 68 They said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah! Who hit you?”
69 Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. A female servant came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But in front of all of them, Peter said he was not. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gate leading into the courtyard. There another servant saw him. She said to the people, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 Again he said he was not. With a curse he said, “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter. “You must be one of them,” they said. “The way you talk gives you away.”
74 Then Peter began to curse and said to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Right away a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said. “The rooster will crow,” Jesus had told him. “Before it does, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” Peter went outside. He broke down and cried.
This is a lot to cover in one morning’s attention span. We divided this passage into three parts. The first is Jesus’s arrest. We learned yesterday that Jesus knew this was coming. It was not a surprise to Him. It was the disciples that were caught of guard…probably because they were sleepy-eyed from their naps. Today we see that one of Jesus’s disciples, Judas, has turned on Him and is the one who points Jesus out to the guards to be arrested. “Would you ever do something like that to one of your friends, or even to Jesus?”, I asked the boys. They were a bit in awe that one of the disciples would do this to Jesus. I explained to them that Judas was wrong in his actions, but that it came as no surprise to Jesus. He knew, and He knew it was all part of God’s plan that had to be completed so that we could be forgiven.
Jesus also let’s us know here that there is no need for violence. He calms the disciple that takes out his sword to defend Jesus. The boys agreed that they would do the same and defend Jesus from being arrested! Here, Jesus reminds us that He could call an army to defend Him at any time. But He wasn’t. He wasn’t fighting or struggling against them. He had come to understand that this must happen.
The second part we talked about was Jesus’s trail at the Sanhedrin. Here Jesus was accused of saying He was the Messiah when the people clearly thought He was not. Why didn’t Jesus answer them or give them some type of miracle to prove who He was? Again I pointed out that Jesus did not deny His identity or try to save Himself. Jesus knew that He had to be crucified to complete His mission on earth. I asked the boys how it made them feel to hear how mean people were being to Jesus. They said words like sad, mad, and hurt. “Has anyone ever made fun of you for believing in Jesus?” I asked them? They answered no, but said if they did they would just “tell them they are wrong”. This made me chuckle a little. We talked about different ways people might question us and our belief in God. Naturally this lead perfectly into the last part of our story where Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
“Would you ever deny believing in God like Peter did?” I asked. “Never!” It is hard for a 4 and 5-year-old mind to understand all of this but it isn’t so hard for us grown ups to imagine. Many of us have been in situations where it was not the “cool” thing to do to be a follower of Christ. I think we have all probably felt that same pressure that Peter did. How do we respond in those times? The boys asked why Peter would lie the way he did? I don’t know exactly what Peter was thinking, but I explained to the boys that Peter was probably very afraid that if he was identified as a follower of Jesus he might be in trouble too. His answers came from fear. Peter was not willing to give up his own life to stand up for his relationship with Jesus. We talked a little about the world today and how in some places people get in a lot of trouble for believing in and worshiping God. Would Peter have been killed if he admitted to following Jesus? Maybe? I don’t know but I would hope that I would have been brave enough to proudly defend my Jesus.
Our conversation went on to topics like standing up for what we know is right and what we believe in. In a 5-year-old mind, I think this was hard to grasp. But for me it was a great reminder of times to come. I believe there will be a time, sooner than we probably know, where we will be asked the same questions Peter was asked. It is easy for me to sit here at my table and judge Peter for his answers and for hiding. It is easy until I am in that same situation with that same pressure. I have a family, maybe Peter did too. I feel pretty confident in saying that I wouldn’t hesitate to recognize my love relationship with God. I hope that I, nor my boys, are ever in that situation but I would be proud to mourn their sacrifice of standing up for Jesus!