Doing About the Best We Can

Friday, April 6, 2012 — Good Friday

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 957)

Psalms 95* & 22 (morning) // 40:1-14(15-19), 54 (evening)

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33

1 Peter 1:10-20

John 13:36-38** John 19:38-42***

* for the Invitatory **Intended for use in the morning *** Intended for use in the evning

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

We all have the best of intentions. Most of the time, everybody is doing about the best they can do. All of us have such limited insight. Sometimes we don’t have all of the resources we need. Often we lack emotional nourishment. If we had more conscious awareness of what makes us tick, more information and alternatives available to us, different life experiences and more love, support, and and encouragement, we could do better. We could have done better. Given our limited insight, resources, and emotional nourishment, most of us are doing just about as well as we can. And we can fail so miserably.

The Daily Lectionary sets us up so deftly today. We read only a brief morning gospel passage. Three verses. A lot has already happened on this last night. Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples. He has told them that one of them will betray him. Judas has left into the darkness. Jesus says to his friends that they can’t come with him on his next journey, and he commands them to love one another. Then we get our three verses.

It’s Peter. Impetuous, energetic Peter. “Why can’t I follow? I would lay down my life for you?” He means it. Peter is utterly sincere. His best intention would be to stand up to anything on behalf of Jesus. “Very truly, I tell you,” says Jesus, “before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Peter is going to fail. He’s going to fail himself. He won’t live up to his intentions. He won’t stand up for his friend like he thought he would. He’ll get in over his head. He’ll be in a situation he’s not prepared for. He won’t understand what’s happening or why. He’ll feel utterly vulnerable and afraid. He’ll be alone, his primary source of strength arrested, bound and threatened. The bottom will fall out. He’ll do what he thinks he needs to do to survive. Then he will realize what he has done. Oh, no. O, God. You can’t undo the past. Maybe he’ll hear the echo of those words, “One of you will betray me.” “Oh, God. It was me!”

That was a night of two betrayals. But they come to such different ends.

When Judas realized what he had done, he despaired. His need to control overcame him, and he did the only thing he could think of to fix the problem, permanently. Given his imaginative limitations, and pride and need to control, Judas did the best thing he could imagine.

When Peter realized what he had done, he too despaired. But Peter kept living with the helplessness long enough to realize and to accept forgiveness. Jesus helped him start again. Then he got other chances to live up to his best intentions. He became “the Rock” on which Jesus would establish his church. According to legend, eventually he was able to follow Jesus so faithfully that he willingly laid down his life for him. Later, when he had a little more insight and resources and emotional depth, Peter lived up to his promises.

But not today.

Past Posts