Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Samuel 11
When I was growing up, "adultery" was a word one whispered. Today the word is "affair", and it is a subtle yet revealing change. "Affair" has an air of mystery about it, and romance, and excitement. Radio, television, movies, books -- all of the media -- assume or encourage the affair. It is easy to fall into the trap: everyone is doing it, so it must be okay. Unless, of course, you believe in keeping the laws of God.
For whatever reason, keeping the seventh commandment is becoming more difficult for more and more Christians. In fact, Allan Petersen begins his new book, "The Myth of the Greener Grass", with a question: "Is anyone faithful Any more?" And it's a good question. He writes that in his 38 years of traveling ministry he has counseled pastors, pastors' wives, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Christian counselors, and church members who reflect the increasing incidence of extramarital affairs among professing Christian people. There is a "tendency to find reasons to support this behavior, even though those reasons might be contrary to the moral and Biblical convictions we have long held."
Today we want to talk about relationships, not sin. Peterson points out the relationship of David and Bathsheba, and the results of their affair. The lessons we can learn from the story of David, a man of God who fell into sin, apply to all of us, men and women alike. Here are some of them, pointed out by Petersen:
No one, however chosen, blessed, and used of God, is immune to an extramarital affair.
Anyone, regardless of how many victories he has won, can fall disastrously.
The act of infidelity is the result of uncontrolled desires, thoughts, and fantasies.
Your body is your servant or it becomes your master.
A Christian who falls will excuse, rationalize, and conceal, the same as anyone else.
Sin can be enjoyable but it can never be successfully covered.
One night of passion can spark years of family pain.
Reading 2 - Jeremiah 15:1
"Then the LORD said to me: 'Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!' " (Jer 15:1).
"What greater discouragement could the LORD have spoken to him? If two venerable leaders of God's people in ancient days were to add their petitions in vain, what hope that Jeremiah might storm the citadels of heaven?
"At the apostasy of the golden calf, Moses, for all his hot anger, made long drawn-out intercession for his people, and saved them from utter dereliction (Deu 9:18-20). Again, when the exhortation of the faithful Caleb and Joshua was spurned, the people being ready to turn their backs on the Land of Promise, the prayer of Moses saved the situation (Exo 32:11,12,30-32; Num 14:13-24).
"In very different circumstances, on two occasions when the people of Israel had only Samuel to lean on in their extremity, the intercession of that prophet brought aid from heaven in thunder and in rain (1Sa 7:8-10; 12:19-25).
"But now, so serious the situation, so intense the anger of the LORD, that Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah combined (or Noah, Daniel, and Job: Eze 14:14-20) would seek in vain to fend off the impending judgment" (Harry Whittaker, "Jeremiah" 54,55).
Reading 3 - Matthew 26:45-48
"Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting?..."
...He sits with the sleeping disciples, as a shepherd keeping watch over his flock, quietly awaiting the coming of the band of men to arrest him. (It may be suggested that a long period, an hour or two, elapsed here while they sleep... before Jesus' "Look!" of the next verse. During the last part of this waiting, Jesus would see the approach of the arresting party, a good way off. We can know this because: (a) they came late at night, (b) with torches, (c) descending into valley from city, (d) climbing the mountain on the opposite side, toward the garden...
"Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'..."
...Not only does he await his persecutors and murderers, but he rises to go and meet them!
"While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him' " (Mat 26:45-48).
Why was it necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed with a kiss? There is, of course, the obvious symbolism: the deceitful treachery of a familiar friend. But, on close examination, there would appear to be a practical reason for Judas to suggest a kiss: the time set for Jesus' arrest was night, and the place a rather secluded garden. The Jews bent on taking Jesus have realized that, in the confusion of an arrest, he could slip out of their hands quite easily. The trick would be to single him out from his followers while they were still at some distance, so that -- when they fled, as it was supposed they would do -- the soldiers would know which of the shadowy figures to pursue and lay hands on. (Under normal visibility there would have been no problem identifying Jesus.) And thus the stratagem of having Judas precede the multitude, for only a member of the inner circle (so they would suppose) could get close enough to single out the leader from his followers.