I fail. I have failed. I will fail.
As people we fail; as friends we fail; as a spouse we fail. Failure is in us and all around us.
Misery loves company – – – Or so I’ve heard. I do know that I feel better about my shortcomings when I see others who struggle. Just the other day I watched my favorite professional golfer, Phil Mickelson, miss a two-footer. TWO FEET!!! Come on, man!!! Oh well, I understand. I miss plenty of the same kinds of putts.
I’m re-reading one of my favorite books, The Killer Angels, a Pultizer Prize winning historical novel by Michael Shaara. The book tells the story of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg. The first time I read the book it made me cry. I was sad for all parties involved.
I’m a huge fan of General R.E. Lee. Huge! (Lincoln too)
But as I read the story yet again, I find myself saying, “Please listen to Longstreet, and please don’t march those young men into the Union center.” But Mr. Lee is very stubborn and the carnage is nauseating. Following the frontal assault on the third day of Gettysburg Lee surveys his beaten army and say, “All this has been my fault.” The venerable Lee had failed*.
Do we know anyone else who has failed? How did Jesus’ students do at test time? In Matthew 26:2 Jesus said, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion.”
He went on teaching them of things to come and we pick up this familiar story in the Garden.
1. First we recount Judas’ betrayal. He rats Jesus out. We see this picture of a Benedict Arnold; he double-crosses Jesus; he is a snitch, a squealer, a two-faced friend. The term Judas’ Kiss is forever a despicable image.
Consider all the ways we are unfaithful to Jesus in the same manner. When we allow our plan to supplant the purpose of Jesus Christ, we betray the Lord.
2. Jesus asks his disciples “keep watch” with Him in the Garden. They fall asleep. We see this picture of sloth, laziness and/or indifference. They must have really been tired, huh?
Consider the call on our lives to remain spiritually focused. When we grow weary in pursuit of God’s work, we too fall asleep in the Garden.
3. When that mob of chief priests and elders appeared with swords and clubs the disciples aroused and it may have looked like a gang confrontation. Peter drew out his sword and slashed. This act of violence may be commendable in its passion, but we know that Jesus had taught many lessons about the Father’s kingdom. This response was not a Jesus response.
Consider the ways we are confronted. Often we may feel threatened. We may encounter those who use the “swords and clubs” of the world to impose their agenda. When we lose our sense of Divine Mission, we tend to respond wrongly.
4. After Jesus was arrested “all the disciples left Him and fled” (vs.56). Yes, this is quite clearly physical cowardice, but it is also spiritual cowardice. They scattered when friend are needed most. The pain the Jesus endured was exacerbated as His closest earthly confidants abandoned Him.
Consider Jesus words, “when you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” We are called to love others as we love ourselves. When we only love ourselves, our agendas, our “thing” . . . that’s when we abandon the cause of Christ.
5. When Jesus is taken to trial many false witnesses (liars) came forward. Jesus, the very Truth of God, faces false accusations that are designed to hurt him.
Consider the pain we have all encountered by those who lie in order to cause us harm. We see in Christ an incredible response. He knew there was something much bigger than the self-advancement of telling lies going on. Jesus found contentment in the bigger picture. God will accomplish His will in us despite the pain and hurt of lies.
6. There is the very familiar story of Peter’s tri-denial. He is blinded by fear. Fear has an ability to incapacitate people.
Consider encounters we all face when it comes to fear. We fear looking badly in the eyes of others. We fear failure. We fear emotional threats as we fear physical threats. God’s love is empowering and perfect love casts out all fear. We need to remember that when we feel threatened.
7. Finally there is the horrible end of Judas. He hangs himself. It appears that he sold his soul for a few lousy dollars. Sadly, he cannot forgive himself. In a picture of a person who realizes he cannot save himself, he sentences himself to death.
Consider the need we all have to take our biggest failure and turn it over to God. The cross is sufficient for the biggest failure. Never underestimate that power.
Failure: What a picture we have in this seven instances of Jesus disciples. It’s all pretty gross and disappointing. It’s all typical of self-centered man.
All this failure is why Jesus suffers and dies. All this failure is about to be swallowed up. Victory is coming, but it’s going to take something and some One very special.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. II Corinthians 2:14
Because we fail the cross of Jesus is fundamental in our doctrine; because He lives we also live forever more.
*My conflict over the failure of General Lee is the context of the war. These were Americans fighting Americans. Everyone was losing. Both Lee and Lincoln offered the same prayer, “Thy will be done.”