On the Road to the Cross: The Denial Mark 14: 66-72

Cross GroomWe arrive at the momentous event of Peter’s denial on the way to the cross.  Before this, we experience the intimacy of the Passover meal with its dire warnings.  Then, we encounter the private moments of Jesus and the riotous events in the Garden.  It’s an emotional trail on the way to cross.

Judas we understand, he was disillusioned and in despair, so he betrays his teacher because the Messiah, for whom he had waited for so long, was talking about his own death.  Peter is Jesus’ closest confidant, comrade, and friend.  He was one of the first to follow Jesus, confessed his Godly identity and mission, went with him to both the Mount of Transfiguration and the Garden of tears on the way to the cross.  Peter promised to stay with Jesus: “Even though all become deserters, I will not!”

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, even as he professes his faithfulness.  Perhaps, Peter follows Jesus after his arrest, albeit distantly and cautiously, to come to his aid at an opportune time.  His impetuousness emboldens him along with his adamant insistence he would die with Jesus. Peter

Peter follows Jesus into courtyard of the high priest’s house where it was obvious what was happening.  The Sanhedrin, due to the early morning hours, had secretly convened at the high priest’s home.  In the courtyard, Peter warms himself beside a fire and the same guards who had arrested Jesus and would soon torture him.  Before he can make up his mind about what he will do, he’s cornered, exposed, named for being a companion of Jesus.  So, he tries to slowly extricate himself by moving toward the gate.

His three denials are three steps away from Jesus.  Mark emphasizes the last step, Peter’s own insistent denial, like his insistent pledge.  This time he doesn’t just deny; Peter curses Jesus and anyone who might try to pin him to the Galilean.  The cock crows for the last time; and his mind rushes as he thinks of his profession, Jesus’ prediction, and his vulgar denial.

Mark writes to a community who lost a number of folk to desertion because of suffering they underwent as Christians in a Roman world.  It is thought that all four good news writers vividly tell this account to provide insight into how those who remained in the fold considered what to do with those who left the way of Jesus.  The inclusion of Peter’s denial story assures 1st and 21st century folk that when we deny we walk in Peter’s shoes; and these deserters can be one of Jesus disciples, and so can we too.  To say Peter could deny Jesus is to say Peter is in each one of us too.

Peter denialPeter weeps and is broken-hearted; he hopes to leach out the anguish of his soul through far too small tear ducts.  Peter breaking down and weeping speaks louder than his three denials.  He cries after realizing who he is and what he has done; knowing he can only offer a contrite spirit.  He acknowledges the person he thinks he is, and the person he acts like are different persons.  Peter is doing soul work on the way to cross.

We too act before considering the depths of our commitments.  When it dawns on us what we’ve done, we weep; feeling the depths of brokenness previously unrecognized.  We see ourselves in a new way; and we don’t want anyone to see us as we are in this moment on the way to the cross. broken

So, we might think Peter would not want Mark and the other gospel writers to share this story.  We know the story of Peter’s denial from Peter; since Mark nor were any of the other disciples present.  Peter was probably Mark’s primary source for first-hand stories.  Peter made sure his denial was included in the gospels to say: “I want you to know how far I fell, so you can understand the depth to which Jesus went to make me right.  If he does that for me, imagine what Jesus will do for you.”

On that night in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, Peter wasn’t ready to be THE ROCK.  By the grace of the risen Christ, Peter was chiseled into THE ROCK.  Mark tells in the resurrection story the angel in the empty tomb told the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter Jesus is going before you to Galilee.” In spite of the denials, Jesus still numbers Peter among his followers for whom he has work for him to do, even though he still has work to do on himself.

undeserved graceLike Peter, we’re capable of embracing and denying the presence of God in our lives almost in the same moment.  We’ve moments of great faith and great doubt.  At times, we stand up; at times we’re silent.  We run back into the burning buildings, and we run away at the first sign of trouble.  Like Peter, we’re created in the image of God, but don’t always display God’s image in our lives.  Like Peter, we’re given chances to receive the gift of God’s love that is always merciful, so we might show again our faithfulness.  This is the nature of God’s grace we can know on the way to the cross.

Paul says in I Corinthians 10, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful lest you fall!”  Even Peter, who Jesus calls “the rock on which I will build my church,” stumbled in the shifting sands of doubt.  If Peter can be humbled by his denials, so can we.  If Peter can be restored, so can we.

From the beginning, God has chosen the most unlikely persons–thieves, murderers, scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells, deniers, and more.  We are Peter and God retells the story of redemption through us nonetheless.  Our past failures don’t prevent us from anything.  Through the grace of God and the power of Jesus Christ, we can rise from our broken weeping ways; saying, “Yes Lord!”  Whatever we’ve done or has been done to us; it can be forgiven, we can be strengthened, and we can love again the way we’ve been loved.  Come; joining Peter and all other followers who have been recipients of God’s amazing grace; eat the bread of our salvation and drink of the cup of our redemption!  This is what we do on the way to cross.

Foot of the cross

Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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