While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.
There is a saying that asks if there would be enough evidence to convict us if Christianity were to be a crime. It is all too easy to point the finger at Peter and, perhaps with bravado, promise that we would not deny our Lord and Saviour. However, when the chips are really down, as in today’s reading, how would we react, when our own life may be at stake, fearing death itself?
However, we also know that it was Peter who so boldly put himself on the line, promising not to deny the Lord who had changed his own life so dramatically. Nobody had asked him to do so although Jesus had, at times, hinted that the cost of true discipleship was being willing to take up the cross to follow Him.
I personally find this whole incident tremendously challenging. I am certainly not the world’s most upfront evangelical Christian, however, I know that the life we own and share as we follow the Lord can be even more effective than a thousand sermons. We can show others our faith as, in quietness and confidence, we just follow in Jesus’ footsteps. He calls us to be faithful and obedient as we live the new commandment of loving one another.
There may be a little clue as to perhaps why Peter disowned Jesus so easily if we read Luke’s account of the same incident. We see in Luke 22:54 the words, “…But Peter was following at a distance.” Was this why Peter, despite his earlier determination, fell rather easily into his all denial of Jesus? The time that Jesus needed his allegiance the most, was the very time, that, because he had not followed Jesus closely enough, that he so easily caved in at the first sign of pressure.
What a warning this is to us that, especially during this time of Lent and the spiritual audit which it can bring, we realise that Jesus paid the ultimate price for us in going through the humiliation, pain, torture, suffering and total separation from His Heavenly Father. How can we do anything less for him?
Precious Saviour, You know how close or afar from you we really are. As, during Lent, we try to take a real view of our own spirituality, may we not shrink from being your true disciples. Instead, help us to faithfully and humbly trust you so that we may be all that you long for us to be. Help us to remain close by your side, hearing and responding to your voice, which bids us to follow, at all costs, as your love beckons us deeper. Amen
Verena Walder is a Lay Preacher and serving Elder at Tabernacle URC in Mumbles.