Fear and Denial: Peter’s StoryJohn Thompson
Jesus’ road to the cross is well documented. The Last Supper, The Garden of Gethsemane, The Trials, and his final execution and resurrection are all, in and of themselves scenes from what some theologians call the “metanarrative” or “Great Story” that God is writing in the universe. While this concept is big, I’d like today to focus on a scene that gets, I feel, the wrong attention; I’m talking about Peter’s denial.
We all have had a long night now and again, tossing and turning in bed. A bad work day, a cup of coffee drank too late, a difficult phone call with a person close to you; all these and many more if you are a parent, are reasons to lose sleep. Rather than losing sleep, our brother, the Apostle Peter has had a rough night. After learning that the guy he’d been following for the last three years, over hill and dale, seen miracles happen, and finally acknowledged as Lord is a prisoner of the High Priest? That’s a tough night. Then when they bring the occupying force of Rome into the mix? Even tougher. Peter is scared. He loves Jesus very much: Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Matthew 26:33
Seriously though, Peter is in this for the long haul, even after Jesus tells him his machismo is going to hurt him: Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (and the disciples, not to be outdone) And all the disciples said the same.” Matthew 26:35
Here is where my first line of thinking about this comes from. We read but do not see the realities that are hidden in this moment. We need a more tangible way to understand this passage.
I’d like for you to think of a few people:
First, of a family member or friend you know that you spend a lot of time with.
Then, someone you look up to, who has a lot of wisdom but also cares deeply for you.
Now, I’d like you to think of your pastor- a spiritual advisor and teacher in your life.
Finally, think of, for a moment, all of that wrapped in one person: A Teacher, a friend, a confidant, a person that you’ve stayed up talking with into the wee hours of the morning- someone you can trust and that has earned your trust.
Now think of having a very intimate, special dinner, more special than even a birthday or anniversary. All of your close friends are there, you all know each other, and you are all close for different reasons. You feel safe and think to yourself, “I wish we’d done this years ago! This is so cool!” Then this prominent, yet close friend then starts to reveal to the group a truth that seems to go past time itself, of great importance. He then ends with saying that one of your friends, your very close friends, is a betrayer. Judas quietly gets up and you ask him, “Jude, where are you going?” But he never turns around. This cup and bread thing seems odd, but you know there’s significance. You can feel it.
Then the meal ends and you get up to leave, and that great friend comes over and asks you, “Can you come with me to the garden? I really need to pray, and it’s a little late.” You respond with, “of course.” and head with a few others to the Garden of Gethsemane. After setting up watch, having had great food and drink and had your fill, you’re getting sleepy.