Denial

Matthew 26:1-35 (NRSV)

The Plot to Kill Jesus

       26 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

          3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

 

The Anointing at Bethany

          6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news[b] is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

          14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

The Passover with the Disciples

          17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;[c] 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

 

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[d] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

Peter’s Denial Foretold

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,     and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

Watching an episode of Madam Secretary a couple of weeks ago, the teenage son of the Secretary of State gets called out of class at high school to go to the principal’s office.

Everybody, oohs and aaahs as if he is in big trouble, and there is laughter and snickering.

As he walks out he says: “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”

 

We live in a world of denials.

 

About three weeks a former Russian spy and double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent, in Salsbury, England.

The nerve agent was one developed and controlled by Russian and according to the authorities of the United Kingdom it is most likely that Russia is responsible.

 

The word out of Moscow from Russian Authorities and in particular is an outright denial.

 

The President of the United States is suing a porn star who goes by the name of Stormy Daniels for breach of contract, for her not keeping quiet about an alleged affair. She was paid $130,000 ostensibly to keep quiet.

However the President denies the affair and denies the allegations of the other 18 women who came forward and said that he was inappropriate with them in a sexual way.

 

A Canadian Politician Patrick Brown resigned as leader of the Ontario Conservative party after alleged incidents of sexual misconducts.

He denies it.

 

There is incontrovertible proof that the Russians meddled in the 2016 US presidential election and the question is not about whether they meddled but about possible ties between Russian Officials and Trump Associates.

 

The Kremlin denies the interference.

 

My point is not to say that just because someone denies something, doesn’t make them innocent or doesn’t make them guilty…

but to raise the point that the first instinct of a human being or a human institution when faced with an unpleasant accusation is to almost automatically deny it.

 

And then for those who are actually guilty the second instinct is to continue to deny it.

 

I remember a long time ago going to the store with a couple of boys in car seats at the back of the car.

I had my two sons with me who were about 4 and 6 maybe.

That was back in the day when parents could leave children in the car for a few minutes.

I went into the store for a couple of minutes and when I came out, Ben the younger boy swore at me.

What did you say. He repeated it, but it was clearer he did not know what he was saying or what it meant.

I looked at big Brother Andrew who was going to school and beginning to learn some words.

He was trying not to grin.

Andrew, did you tell Ben to say that.

And of course he denied it.

Andrew did you tell Ben to day that.  “NO.”

Andrew if you are lying, I am going to ground you for a week, take away your favourite toy and give you a spanking.

Three punishments always worked better than one.

 

Whereupon Andrew said: “What will happen if I tell the truth?”

 

Andrew had not learned that lesson that politicians seem to have learned that if you deny, you have to keep denying for ever.

 

Twenty five years ago Pam Tillis released a song and a video in which she talked about a man who wasn’t treating her right, and her inability to tell him to take a walk.

 

Her words were:

 

Just call me Cleopatra everybody ‘Cause I’m the Queen of Denial

Oh Queen of Denial Buyin’ all his alibis Queen of Denial Floatin’ down a river of lies

 

In fact, concerning Climate change, vaccines, evolution, flu, unwanted pregnancy, psychotic behaviour, there are people in denial all over the place.

 

 

And believe me it is not a new phenomenon.

 

Jesus said to his disciples. “You will all become deserters because of me.”

And Peter says. “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

 

And so said all the disciples.

 

Earlier Jesus told that that one of them would betray him.

One after another they said. “Surely not I”

 

Surely not I.

 

And yet we know the end of the story. Peter denied him and they all deserted him. Judas was the betrayer we think of most, but they all betrayed him in their own way.

 

They all denied him.

 

Denial is a form of lying. It often stems from the fear of facing an unpleasant truth that will be painful or hurt or cause us to change…

 

Some might argue that all mental health issues stem from a kind of denial to face the truth about oneself and one’s situation.

 

They all denied him. All.

 

Denial and lying are universal and when we read the story of the denial, there is only one place where we can find ourselves in the story.

 

We are the disciples. We all deny Jesus. We all are afraid of the truth.

Truths like. Love your enemy.

Forgive one another.

Love one another.

Don’t judge another.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Turn the other cheek.

That is we see someone hungry or naked or in prison then helping them or sharing with them is like doing it to Jesus.

 

I have betrayed Jesus by not forgiving someone who hurt me.

I have betrayed Jesus by gossiping behind someone’s back.

I have betrayed Jesus by being greedy.

I have betrayed Jesus by pretending to ignore the hungry and needy in this world

 

I have betrayed Jesus by being judgemental and downright critical..

 

I have betrayed Jesus from walking away from people I don’t want to love.

 

I have betrayed Jesus by thoughts and actions and words.

 

And I, like most of us here, when asked will often reply.

“Surely, you don’t mean me?”

How universal is it to live in denial about the ways we hurt ourselves,

The ways we hurt others…

The ways we fudge the truth…

The ways we avoid taking responsibility…

The ways we ignore the sufferings of others….

 

The ways we betray Jesus.

 

You know in Alcoholics Anonymous the first of the 12 steps is to acknowledge that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

 

Today is a day to admit that we are powerless. That our lives our unmanageable.

That we cannot control the deceit, the manipulation, the hurt we do, the denial of our own true self,

 

It is not just Jesus we betray.

 

Jesus on the cross represents everyone who has suffered unjustly at the hands of others…

Women, harassed and abused by men.

Aboriginals denied justice and the victims of cultural genocide.

Gays and Lesbians tortured and burned alive.

Blacks and people of colour turned into slaves….

 

Children and Women and Civilians bombed in wars.

 

Chemical weapons, Nuclear weapons

 

Humanity is powerless over sin. Our common life is unmanageable.

 

Only a higher power can restore us to sanity.

 

And that is why we Christians turn to the one we betrayed, because from that cross he looks at us and loves us.

He looks at us and forgive us…

He looks at us and offers to live in us….

 

He offers his power. His Spirit. His life.

 

…His life that dies to be born in us. …To be resurrected in us.

 

Many years ago I was on the scene of a tragic accident where a young child died.

 

And there were two grief-stricken parents. I am not sure there is any greater grief than to lose a child to death.

 

And one of the parents said:

“It was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention enough.”

 

No denial. No fear. No fudging. No manipulation.

 

“I did it.” The truth.

 

The parent admitted to being in the wrong.

 

It was one of the greatest acts of courage I had ever seen and maybe will ever see.

 

But we believe it is the truth that sets us free.

 

For God sent his son into the world so that parent would not be condemned, but forgiven, and healed and restored.

 

And that way back out of this unmanageable world is for us to all say this:

We were wrong. We are wrong. We continue to be wrong.

O Lord, forgive us. O Lord save us. O Lord, live in us.

 

Today the cock crows and we are despondent with the realization that we live in denial and have denied our Lord many times.

 

Forgive us God, we cry.

 

Fortunately we know the end of the story, the power of love to forgive.

 

The power that will raise Jesus from death to live in us.

 

Amen.