Palm Sunday and Communion, a well-loved story and a practiced sacrament came together to bring new spiritual awareness and a deepening of my Christian compassion.
Our Palm Sunday service started with the children circling the sanctuary waving brightly coloured scarves. They were emotionally preparing us to worship with expectation the triumphant entrance of Jesus’ into Jerusalem.
I could imagine the people of Jerusalem acting very much as our children were, hesitant at first to express their full measure of joy and with each passing moment being more embolden until their joy could not be contained. Our children all but ran through the aisle at this point waving their scarves with youthful abandon.
Pastor Juanita Laverty then starts to take us through the familiar stories of Palm Sunday and Christ’s Last Supper. This time however I heard the stories differently and I learned of Christ’s compassion anew.
Juanita “bookended” (her words) Christ’s compassion for all human beings in the Last Supper between his foreshadowing of two betrayals.
The first found in Luke 22:21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” All Christians can identify that Jesus is referring to the dastardly Judas Iscariot.
The second is found in Luke 22:34 “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
And between foreshadowing these two betrayals by his closest friends and companions Jesus offers up Luke 22:28-30 “You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Jesus has offered equal portions of his compassion to Judas and to Peter, both take part in this the first Communion and it is only after this that Jesus calls out the men that will betray him.
As a Christian I have always placed Judas outside of redemption and as such I have never identified with Judas betrayal, yet at the same time I have taken comfort in the knowledge that Peter’s betray was forgiven and as such I am forgiven when my faith is not strong enough to stand up against fearful odds.
How different really are these two betrayals? Both men acted out of fear, frustration and grief as they came to realize that Jesus would not be the earthly King, the Jewish saviour they were waiting for. In their betrayal of Jesus they were acting out their humanity/ acting out of self-preservation.
Today I came into a deeper understanding of God’s compassion as experienced through the love and preemptive forgiveness Jesus offered both Judas and Peter, knowing of their betrayals he loved them all the same.
I am both Judas and Peter – I deny God’s plan for me when my wants, expectations, fear, anger … my humanity gets in the way - I am loved by my Redeemer as the child of God that I am.