May 13, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 14:66-72.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. [Then the cock crowed.] The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.” He began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and wept.
The natural focus is on Peter. Peter who was not able to stay awake while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane but who tried to fend off those who came to arrest Jesus. Peter who fled but found his way to the high priest residence to see what was going to happen to Jesus. Peter who denied Jesus as predicted but who wept bitterly at his own weakness and faithlessness. Peter who probably wished he were a stronger, more courageous friend, a friend ready to lay down his life for Jesus.
Peter the paradox. Peter is all of us who want to follow Jesus, who want to be better people, who want to avoid sin but who fall short time and again. Peter is all of us who love Jesus yet deny his command to love one another as he loves us. Peter is all of us who fail the test. Peter is all of us who are forgiven, who are still loved. Peter is the cornerstone of the church, the anchor of the faith, so often tireless and fearless in preaching the truth of God’s word. We, too, are the foundation of the faith when we help another in need, when we encourage another in faith, when we forgive and love another again.
But there are others in this story as well who also are all of us. The maid who pointed out that Peter was a man not like her; he was from somewhere else and held beliefs different from hers. The maid who again cast aspersion by accusing Peter of associating with criminals. The bystanders who pick up on the maid’s accusations that Peter was one of “them” who could be picked out because he spoke with a different dialect and perhaps looked different. How often do we separate ourselves from others because they think differently, they hold different beliefs, they have a different skin color, they have a different nationality or ethnicity, they are of a lower socioeconomic class? How often do we judge based on appearances? How often do we turn a deaf ear because their ideas don’t conform to ours? How often do we blame those who are different from us for our troubles? We do it all the time, often unconsciously. We fail to see the heart of a man like Peter, refuse to feel his pain, deny his humanness as a singular person created by God instead of a member of some other group.
I also am a paradox like Peter with both strengths and weaknesses, with courage and cowardice, with faithfulness and faithlessness. I also am like the maid and the bystanders who reflexively who categorize and judge others because they aren’t like me. My only hope for redemption is to keep in mind, not just remember, what Jesus has told me: love one another as he loves me.