Still Loving the Unfaithful

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 26 and Exodus 1 & 2

                I hesitate to write very much about Matthew 26.  I would much prefer that you spend your time reading Matthew 26 than whatever I have to say about it.  It is a very emotionally powerful story about love and betrayal, desire and surrender.  Read it slowly and soak it in.  What is God saying to you as you read through the text?

                One thing that stood out to me was Jesus’ warning in vs. 31 that they would all “fall away”.  Two things I note about this.  First, Jesus knew that one of them would betray him, another would deny him and the rest would abandon him after he was arrested. Jesus knew this and yet he still broke bread with them.  Matthew doesn’t include it but we know from John’s telling of the story that Jesus also washed their feet.  It would be hard to wash someone’s feet even if they aren’t about to betray or deny or abandon you, yet so great was Jesus’ love for them that he did this for them knowing full well that they would be undeserving.  Paul would later write to the Romans that God showed His love for us in that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (See Romans 5:8).

                The second thing I notice is a recurring theme that keeps emerging in each day’s readings so far this week.  In Matthew 24 Jesus warns that many will fall away and that they should stand firm to the end.  In Matthew 25 Jesus warns that many will be unprepared (without enough oil to keep their lamps lit), lazy (burying their talents instead of working for their master till he comes), or apathetic (not caring about “the least of these” enough to help those in need.  Each of those stories is a warning about falling away from faithfully following Jesus.  Now in Matthew 26 Jesus explicitly says that they are all about to fall away.  But he still washed their feet.  He still gave them the bread and wine which symbolize his body and his blood.  He still loved them.  Jesus holds out hope for them that after he has been resurrected he would meet them in Galilee (vs. 32). 

                Jesus knows what it is to be human.  Jesus knows what it is to have great intentions like Peter “even if everyone else abandons you Jesus I never well” and then to fail miserably in no time.  Before the sun rose the next day Peter had already broken his promise to Jesus and denied three times that he even knew Jesus.  Jesus knew Peter meant well but was a weak and fallible human being, as they all were and as we all are.

                Who among us hasn’t made a new year’s resolution and before the month of January completely broken it?  Who among us hasn’t made a promise to a friend or loved one and failed to keep that promise? Who among us hasn’t made a promise to God that we would “Never” do that sinful thing again, and by the time we woke up the next morning we had done the sinful thing again? 

                Jesus knows how sinful we are and how sinful we will be, yet he still loves us, he still washes us (not just our feet but all of us in baptism) he still gives us his body and his blood and he still sets an appointment to meet us after the resurrection.  Does Jesus want us to fall away?  Of course not.  That’s why he warns us every way imaginable NOT to fall away, NOT to fall asleep, NOT to deny him, NOT to abandon him, NOT to fail to care for him by caring for the needy, NOT to run out of oil, NOT to bury our talents in the ground.  He wants us to stand firm to the end and not fall away.  But he knows that some of us will and he knows that all of us will mess up, but he still loves us.

                I can assure you, even though I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 46 years and a pastor for 35 years, I still mess up.  I’m still tempted by greed, by pride, by lust, by selfishness, by bitterness and hatred.  I’m thankful that I’m one of those sinners for whom Jesus died, and you are too.  Don’t fall away, but if you do, come back to the loving arms of Jesus.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

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