Best Day Ever

What is the one day that changed your life the most? There are probably lots of days you could nominate.

Start with your birthday.  That’s a pretty big one.  If you didn’t have a birthday not only would you not get presents you wouldn’t be alive.  Your birthday is a pretty important day. How about your wedding day?  That’s an important one too. There are other big days you could nominate for best day. The day your kids were born. Your graduation day.  Maybe the day you lost someone special.  I will always remember September 26.  My dad and I were born on the same day, September 27, but 23 years ago on September 26, a day before our birthdays, I got a call that my dad was gone. He only got to meet one of my kids. That still makes me sad.

As I was thinking about my life there is one day that was pretty monumental that I want to nominate.  I’m not even really sure what day it was.  I’m guessing it was August 5 or August 12.  I know it was a Monday.  On that Monday back in 1986, I had just taken the job as youth pastor at a church in Huntington Beach and I was at camp at Forest Home with my new kids.  That afternoon at around 4:00 I went to a staff meeting for all of the leaders.  Back in the day, I was not only a youth pastor but I was also their worship leader.  That afternoon I was practicing my guitar so I brought it with me to the meeting.

My wife was also at that meeting. She was working at another youth group and she was there too.  If you ask her, she’ll tell you that she does remember me and my guitar.  I was using that guitar so proficiently that she couldn’t forget. I wasn’t playing my guitar I was doing this expertly balancing it on my nose and as soon as she saw my expert skills, she knew she had to have me.

Over the following week we spent some time together and I realized that I wanted to spend more time with her so I came up with a plan to get her number.  I wrote her a note.  It said: “If you want to go out with me, check this box.” As hard to believe as it is, that note worked.  That day back in August in 1986 changed my life.  A year later on August 22 we were married.  We had three beautiful kids born March 4, June 15 and December 2.  In January, we added one more beautiful kid when we adopted our daughter from Haiti. January 15 was her Gotcha Day.  This August 22 we will celebrate 30 years together.  As you can see, that one day lead to a lot more great days.

One day can make all the difference. As Christians we celebrate some pretty big days around this time of year.  Two weeks ago was Palm Sunday, then we had Maundy Thursday.  “Maundy,” by the way, means holy and that day commemorates the last supper Jesus had with his disciples. Of course, Last Friday was Good Friday and this past Sunday was Easter Sunday.

All of those days are significant and could easily be days you would nominate as days that changed your life and really, changed the world.  But today I want to talk about the day during Easter week that no one ever talks about…Saturday.  We don’t really even have a name for that day, at least not one that we use very much.  Christians for centuries called it Black Saturday, but in reality, the only black day we ever think of is Black Friday and we only think of that day when we want to get a cheap TV at Walmart.

The Word

Good Friday is an amazing day, and Easter Sunday is the best of all days, but for a couple of characters in Jesus’ story that Saturday is especially significant.  They were both followers of Jesus. They are both world renowned to this day.  Infamous really. Both of these characters broke the heart of Jesus. They both were disloyal in his greatest time of need.  For these two characters it was Saturday that made all the difference. Let me show you what I’m talking about.  Let’s start with traitor number one:

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.—Matthew 26: 14-16

Judas thought he was being sly about his betrayal, but Jesus could see right through his plan:

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” —Matthew 26:20,21

Later that night Judas did just that.  Do any of you remember how Judas betrayed Jesus?  With a kiss. Everyone knows this story, right? That story is so much a part of history that even today if someone betrays another they are called a “Judas.”  In the book Dante’s Inferno that supposes that there are different levels of Hell and Judas is said to be at the very bottom, right there next to Hitler.  It’s Judas, Hitler and the guy who invented the automated attendant phone system.  I think Hell is just one long wait on hold.  “If you’d like to speak to the Prince of Darkness press one.”

Judas was picked by Jesus and followed him for three years, but nothing good is ever said about Judas.  I guess I can understand that.  Betraying the savior is a major red flag on your resume. But Judas wasn’t the only one disloyal to Jesus that day:

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”—Matthew 26:31,32

Judas isn’t the only one to be disloyal to Jesus on the last night of his life.  Jesus called it; He said, “They will all fall away.” The word here for “fall away” is to desert.  Each of his disciples would be deserters in his time of greatest need.  But there was one that would go down in history as the biggest deserter.  What’s his name?  That’s right; it’s Peter.  Jesus says, “You will all leave” and Peter doubles down on his bet:

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.—Matthew 26:33-35

Do you remember how that went for Peter?

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. –Matthew 26: 69-75

Peter disowned Jesus.  He deserted his friend.  What he did was despicable.  Maybe I’m the only one, but I find very little difference in what Judas did and what Peter did.  Judas betrayed.  Peter deserted. They were both disloyal.  They were both traitors.  I guess if you pressed me on it, I would have to say that what Judas did was worse.  Selling someone for money is worse than denying you ever knew them.  But, if you look in the Bible, people have done worse things and have been forgiven.  If you look back in the Bible at the story of Joseph, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery an in the end they were forgiven.  If they could be forgiven, couldn’t Judas have been forgiven as well?

What’s the Difference?

Judas and Peter both abandoned Jesus during his greatest hour of need, but only one of them is universally condemned and that’s Judas. No one names their kid Judas. Judas has never been in the top 1000 names in the US since Social Security started keeping track of such things in 1900.  Peter, on the other hand, has been in the top 100 names until 1996 when it’s popularity started to drop off.  Peter is currently 206. There are currently 620,141 people named Peter in the United States today. Know how many Judas’ there are?  There are 1623 people whose parents don’t love them named Judas living in the United States.  Just as a contrast, there are 8,117 people named Dorcas in the US.

What Judas did was bad.  Really bad.  But his betrayal wasn’t his biggest mistake.  We find his biggest mistake in the next chapter:

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. –Matthew 27:1-5

Judas and Peter both abandoned Jesus.  They both turned their back on him.  They were both disloyal.  But people name their kids Peter and no one names their kid Judas.  Peter is revered; Judas is universally hated.  So what’s the difference between Judas and Peter? Simple. It’s Saturday. Peter stayed around for the weekend.  Peter managed to make it through Saturday.  I believe it was a hard choice for him.  When Peter realized his mistake he wept bitterly.  I believe Peter considered taking his life after he denied Jesus three times.  When we get to Heaven we can ask him, but I have to believe the thought crossed his mind.

The only difference between Judas and Peter is that Peter stayed alive long enough to be forgiven.  He stayed alive long enough for this moment.  Judas’ biggest mistake was not betraying Jesus.  Judas biggest mistake was that he didn’t make it through Saturday.  If he had he would have experienced this:

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there. –-John 20:1-6

Judas’ biggest mistake was not betraying Jesus.  Judas biggest mistake was that he didn’t make it through Saturday.  If he had he would have seen the empty tomb and he would have touched the burial clothes and he would have realized that Jesus was alive and he could be forgiven.  In the next chapter Peter talks it out with Jesus.  Judas could have done that same thing.

This story could have gone very differently.  If Peter had killed himself and Judas had stayed alive, we would be naming our children Judas and when someone betrayed another we would call him “Peter.”

Judas biggest mistake was not betrayal. His biggest mistake was believing his sin was too big to be forgiven.  It was too bad.  He wasn’t worthy.  His biggest mistake was not making it through Saturday so he could ask forgiveness.

Make it Through Saturday

As we wrap up here, I have a question for you:  What’s your biggest mistake?   one wants to talk about their biggest mistake. But just between you and me, what is it?

  • Is there someone you’ve hurt?
  • Was it a habit that got control of your life?
  • Are there harsh words you wish you could get back?
  • Do you have a police record?
  • Have you been angry or abusive?

Do you want me to go on? I can because as people there is no limit to the amount of ways we can mess up our lives. I have no idea what your biggest mistake is, but I’m guessing it doesn’t take for you long to look back in your past to identify something you wished you didn’t do.

Getting Real

I’m like you.  I don’t want to talk about my biggest mistake.  So let me talk about someone else’s…my dad’s:  My dad was an alcoholic.  He wasn’t a happy TV drunk.  His beers didn’t lead to bikinis on the beach like every beer commercial I’ve ever seen. He was angry and violent.  I remember one day when I walked down stairs and he was holding a gun and he was talking about ending his life because of all his guilt.

But he didn’t do that.  He made it through that Saturday. Then he met Jesus and Jesus forgave him. And Jesus restored our relationship.  On September 26 twenty-three years ago I cried because I lost my dad.  I miss him.  Dad made some mistakes.  But he didn’t make the biggest mistake. He took his mistakes to Jesus and was forgiven. Because of what Jesus did on Easter, I will see my dad again and we will get to celebrate our birthday together.

I have a feeling that your biggest mistake is not what you think it is.  Based on this story there is only one fatal mistake.  It’s not making it through Saturday. It’s not making it to the empty tomb.  It’s not coming before Jesus to ask forgiveness.  Everything else is forgivable.  You’re hurt, your habits, your abuse, your addiction.  Jesus forgave murderers and thieves and betrayers.  He can forgive you.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes all you have to do is get through Saturday #CanyonSprings” username=”canyon_springs”]