Imagine you are one of Jesus’ disciples (well, actually, you are) that fateful night of his betrayal. We’ve just finished our Passover meal, sung a hymn, and are now walking out into the cool evening. Jesus has washed our feet, tied the implications of Passover to his sacrifice, we’ve enjoyed conversation, and now, walking out into the garden, Jesus tells us that we will desert him before the night is over. How would you feel after an enjoyable evening with friends if one of them notes that before the evening is over you will bail on your friendship with them?
I think I’d be shocked, miffed, and a bit confused. “What are you saying?” “How could you think that?” Adding to the confusion, your friend then refers to an obscure passage from a prophesy that isn’t really related to the situation just to illustrate his point! “Say what?” One of us, there’s always at least one, finds his voice, and throws the rest of us under the table saying, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I won’t.” “Seriously,” replies Jesus, “before the midnight chime, you will have denied me three times.” Undeterred and a bit emboldened, our outspoken friend pushes his point. “In the unlikely event things turn really bad, I’d rather die than betray you!” Of course, not wanting to look bad, we clamor to declare our loyalty as well.
Not long after our declaration of loyalty, we find ourselves in Gethsemane where Jesus asks us to take a break so he can pray. Three of our number walk a little way further with him and the rest of us wait. Apparently, we all fall asleep–it has been a long day, after all. Clearly distressed, Jesus asks Peter, “can’t you even stay awake for an hour to pray with me?” Implying that if Peter (and the rest of us) would willingly die we could at least stay awake to pray. But we can’t. While our spirit may be willing, clearly our flesh is weak. At this point, are you feeling guilty, confused, put out with him for asking you to stay awake? I think I would feel a bit bored just sitting and waiting. Yet, our friend gets it. It grieves him, but he knows we are dusty and continues to invite our participation in his grief and cry out to Abba.
In the end, we all leave eventually finding ourselves huddled in someone’s house with the door locked because… we are afraid. What are we talking about? Are we accusing each other for bailing, licking our wounds, confused and troubled by the awful turn of events that have left us cowering in hiding? I’m guessing our loyalty is not even a topic of discussion. And I doubt we are talking about his deep love for us. How could he? We abandoned him to a cruel outcome. Isn’t it a little bit on us that he died? What kind of friends and followers are we, anyway?
On Sunday morning we get yet another glimpse of his great love when he calls us brothers to Mary Magdalene. (John 20:17) Even more significantly for Peter, Mark’s version of this story includes the words, “and Peter also… ”. The angel makes sure Peter knows he is included and wanted too.
What must that have been like for Peter to know he is wanted? And what about us, for that matter? We abandoned him too. How does it feel knowing he still calls you brother/sister even after you preferred yourself over him?
by Nannie R. Glass
Sin soon will crucify our Lord,
Thy sin, and all the world’s beside.
He gave himself, the Living Word,
Our shelter from God’s wrath to hide.
Had all the seraphs pens to write
Such love upon the boundless sky,
Angelic powers could not indite
Its greatness while the ages fly.
The hour is hastening. God has willed
That Christ should through his own decree
Abolish death and have fulfilled
Our blood-bought immortality.
And when the awful tomb he rent,
When freed from every earthly thrall,
“Tell Peter” was the message sent;
“Tell Peter”-’tis love’s tender call.
Peter was martyr to his faith;
His rock, God’s son whom he denied;
This faith the key that unlocks death
To realms where joy and peace abide.
“Tell Peter!” Honey drops of love,
Awaking all the choirs of heaven!
“Tell Peter”-angels from above
Shout, “Hear, O earth, and be forgiven!”