So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
We identify ourselves with Peter. We have not been perfect disciples, so are glad Jesus was forgiving when Peter failed lamentably, but we have been faithful church members for years. If we have been asked to fulfil leadership roles locally or more widely, the fantasy is reinforced. If someone reminded us about grisly martyrdom we might be slightly less keen, but we are certainly not Judas. It is the family down the road with two cars who have allowed themselves to be corrupted by money, not us.
Actually there are twelve disciples in the story. Where are the rest on the spectrum? Almost certainly not a simple linear hierarchy with Peter nearest Heaven and Judas nearest Hell. Ten other characters struggling with the new worldview Jesus has just set out for disciples, with radical new yardsticks for faithfulness. Ten characters each struck by different implications of what Jesus has been saying. Some wanting to analyse the theology, some wondering about the action points. Each one still with the potential to grow as a Christian disciple or gradually to fall away.
So in fact a group much like your local church and mine. Doomed to division and decline if some have decided they are the only ones really in touch with God; still with the possibility of being beautiful and extraordinary if all are looking to learn from each other and grow in discipleship.
Lord Jesus Christ, Holy One of God, You have the words of eternal life. Give to us the right words today to build up and not break down To be Peter at his best and not Peter at his worst To notice the Judas in ourselves To share with the companions you have given us. So that together we journey on Walking the Way toward a discipleship that changes us the Church the World Amen
John Ellis is Immediate Past Moderator of the General Assembly and Church Secretary within the Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP in Kent.