They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power”, and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.
Here we see that Peter carried out the first of two commitments he had made a few hours beforehand. Whether he fulfilled the second is left for us to see tomorrow.
On the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter had promised that he would not be scandalised and scattered when the shepherd was struck, even if the rest of the sheep scattered. As NRSV puts it in Mark 14:29, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’
Peter followed him, writes Mark in 14.54 using the same word as he did in 1:18 when Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed him. At a distance, but he went right into the courtyard of the high priest, and even sat amongst the guards around the fire.
Peter must have been able to hear what happened: the conflicting testimonies and Jesus’ silence, the challenge from the high priest and Jesus’ bold declaration, the verdict of blasphemy and the abuse of Jesus by council and guards. As a result Peter will have been able to give his first-hand account to other disciples, and it became this important part of the Gospel of Mark (who may have been the young man who fled naked, 14:52) taken up also by the other Gospel writers.
This can be a great encouragement to our promise to follow Jesus when it involves going into difficult places with him, e.g. a crucial meeting, a new responsibility, an unknown society, a dangerous or threatening situation.
If we go right in, that’s the first commitment achieved again. We have the opportunity to do something useful, and the experience may equip us for witnessing later. Whether we’ll say what is needed while there (witnessing at the time) is another matter, which we could tackle in relation to tomorrow’s passage.
To follow where you lead, to see with your perspective, to share in strange struggles, to thrive against threats, to be firm in the face of challenges, to trust with your confidence, to message your Messiahship with our lives, we pray, Lord Jesus, for the grace of your Spirit. Amen
The Rev’d Bernie Collins, retired, member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton.