ON FIRE 5 / WHEN FRIENDS FAIL

BIBLE READING

Acts 1: 12-22

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, ‘Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.’

(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms:

‘“May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, ‘“May another take his place of leadership.”

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’

REFLECTION

For over 3 years there’s been 12 men and Jesus.  They have gone everywhere together, shared meals together, slept in the same room, learned together, spent many hours ministering and working together.

Over 3 years of doing that, you get close, you get tight, you develop strong bonds, you trust each other, you depend on each other.  You think you all know one another.  And then one night, one of them betrays you.  He does something which totally devastates you, it turns your world upside down, it makes you question everything.

That’s what happened with Judas Iscariot.  Judas didn’t just betray Jesus, he betrayed the other 11 disciples. 

Look at what Peter says here in verse 17:

“...he was one of our number and shared in this ministry......”

He was one of us.  He shared this ministry with us.  He did everything we did, he went everywhere we went, we spent Christmas and New Years Eve together.  We went on holidays together.  That’s the sense of what Peter is saying here.  One of our own, one of our inner circle, who we thought we could trust – betrayed us, he failed us, he tried to harm us. 

And remember this was only 6 weeks ago.  It’s not like it was 20 years ago.  The wound is still raw, it’s recent history.

We’ve all experienced this to some degree or other at some time in our lives.  It happens in life, it happens in families, it even happens in churches.  People we have built up a relationship with and gotten close to, that we’re let into our world and opened ourselves up to – then they do something, completely out of the blue and it totally devastates us.  It’s like a punch in the guts.

They walk away from us, they betray us and deceive us. They break the trust that we had, they turn against us, talk about us, fail us, let us down, they do something that in our worst nightmare we never thought would happen.  And we’re left standing there with our world in pieces, wondering, 'How did this happen?  Was I stupid to trust them?  How did I not see this before?'

It makes us question everything else we thought was true, it makes us wonder about our other relationships, it makes us doubt those who we trust.

When this happens our lives can go one of two ways.

We can get stuck there and allow this failure, this betrayal to affect everything from this point onward.  Decide we'll never trust anyone again.  You can walk around angry, bitter, suspicious and cynical.  I’ve seen it happen many times.

That’s one way we can deal with it.  But there’s another way.  And that is to acknowledge the failure, and move on.

It’s not about burying your head in the sand and pretending it didn’t happen.  Denial doesn’t help anyone.  But it’s about acknowledging it – facing up to the reality of what happened – and deciding that you will not allow that one event, that one person, that one offense – to determine the rest of your life.

You will not allow the past to determine your future.

That’s what Peter does here in Acts 1.  He openly acknowledges what Judas did:

Verse 16: “...Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus...”

He talks about the relationship they had:

Verse 17: “he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

And then he immediately looks to the future:

Verses 20-22:  “'May another take his place of leadership.' Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

He says – this is what happened, and it hurt – he was one of us and he betrayed us – but we have a mission to fulfil and that is to tell the world about Jesus.  And so we will not allow one person’s failure, one man’s betrayal, one friend’s offense against us – to take us of course from what God has called us to do.  He says: Let’s find someone to replace Judas so that we can get out there and do what Jesus wants us to do.

I know it’s a bit of a cliché – but it’s not so much what happens to us that shapes our lives, but how we respond to what happens to us.  Two people can have the exact same thing happen to them but end up in totally different places, depending on how they think about it and allow it to shape them.

Bitterness, cynicism, unforgiveness, anger and resentment are not the fruit of the Spirit.  They’re not what God wants for us and they will never take us into what God has for us.

Absolutely central to our faith is the cross, the ultimate picture of my betrayal and my offense and my failure. 

But the cross is also the ultimate picture of God’s forgiveness, God’s grace, and God’s healing power.

And so when someone hurts us and betrays us, we need to keep coming back to that place, and we need to cling to the cross, and it’s there we find all that we need to enable and empower us to move on with our lives.

God’s mission and purpose for your life, and God’s mission for His church, is bigger than any one man or woman and how they may have failed you.