So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Snakes and ladders is such a frustrating game. One moment the feeling of annoyance when suddenly we go down a snake. Such games are random and, while we can feel out of control, real life is also shaped by the decisions we take. The real life snakes are often more subtle; we start with something small and, before we know it, we are sliding faster and further than we wanted.
I picture Peter getting increasingly vexed as he replies to those who ask if he knew Jesus. A combination of fear of the authorities and not wanting to go back on what he had said drives his denials. Judas is seen as the dangerous denier and Peter, we know, resolves things with the risen Christ. Jesus had warned Peter what was to happen because Jesus knew and understood what people are like.
Like Peter, it is the small steps that can catch us out. The small denials set us on a difficult path – whether that is in caring for ourselves or living the faith. We gradually slip from the path we hoped to take, sometimes, like Peter we lash out at those who point out our error or hypocrisy. Like Peter, the dawn can bring the realisation of how we have stepped away from the life Christ hopes for us. Like Peter, on another day, we have the chance to begin again. Walking with Christ helps us find the small steps which help live a life with more ladders than snakes.
Like Peter we do not set out to deny Christ either in word or action. Jesus knew what a struggle being human is. Christ is ready to journey with us throughout our lives. If even some days we can manage to be just a little more Christ-like, a little more able to hold to our devotion to the way he has set before us, we will, indeed, be on a right path.
Creator God, you know the struggles of being human. Strengthen us. Son of God, you know how easily people turn away from you. Strengthen us Holy spirit, you know how much help each one of us needs to follow the right path set before us Strengthen and guide us Amen
The Rev’d Martyn Coe is a minister in the South Lakes Group of Churches, Cumbria.