How many of us can relate to Simon Peter’s desire to stand beside Jesus, steadfast and true. Those very same people can, I am sure, also relate to Peter’s denial of Jesus. As St. Paul would say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Truly as we grow in our own discipleship of Jesus Christ, we also hope to grow in our fidelity to Him and His messages. This is easy when things are going well or in those moments when we are ‘alone’ with Jesus – either in our thoughts, prayers or reading. In those times of quiet devotion it is easy to be confident that given the circumstance, we’d stand firm, with no doubt in our mind. Yes, while we want to be the steadfast and true friend, we probably better identify with Peter during the time that was not so.
How fickle the heart can be, illustrated in a powerful way as we consider the events of the first Holy week. On Sunday, the people are laying down palms to ‘pave’ the way for Jesus in Jerusalem. They are heralding him as a King, completely ready to receive all His teachings, accept Him into their lives, and become a follower. By Friday, they are condemning Him to death – accusing Him of being a criminal, yet He has committed no crime. In essence, they like Peter are denying Jesus is or has ever been part of their life. It is clear the mob mentality infiltrates the mindset of the onlookers and they cease to make decisions based on what they know and have seen, but instead fall victim to popular opinion.
How very relevant this is today. We enter into this relationship with Jesus, and are often given some great consolation of faith which leads us to praise Jesus for entering into our lives. Yet, within a short time, we start to notice the world around us is not as welcoming, and in fact, we are in danger of being ridiculed or abandoned because of our faith in Jesus. Our crime is that we are seeking to live a counter-cultural life modeled after this great, often misunderstood man. We are accused of being close minded, biased, prejudice, judgmental, and self-righteous all in the name of wanting to be a disciple of Jesus, who we believe to be the Son of God, and an amazing model of justice and holiness. Like Peter, our fear of being crucified along with Jesus, causes us to deny Jesus, and again like Peter, find ourselves denying this friend over and over again.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” How many times will we deny Jesus? The number is probably too numerous to be properly calculated. This world does not make following Christ any easier than Peter found it on that night Jesus was being persecuted. It takes real courage to proclaim your love for Christ, and to stand with Him in faith. Thankfully Peter’s lesson is not just about sinning and going awry, it is also about God’s love, mercy and full redemption.