13 March 2014

denying the best within us

One of the readings in Lent this year comes from John 18.  It deals with the arrest of Jesus and Peter’s denials.  This is a reading in the Narrative Lectionary, as opposed to the more familiar Revised Common Lectionary.

Earlier, in chapter 13, one might say that Peter bites off more than he can chew.  While at the table for the Last Supper, Peter says to Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you” (v. 37).  Jesus responds by predicting that Peter will deny even knowing him three times before sunrise, that is, before the rooster crows.  Sadly, that is exactly what happens. 

In one of history’s ironic twists, Peter does lay down his life for Jesus.  Tradition holds that the Romans crucify Peter, but they do grant him his last request.  He is put to death on an upside-down cross, because he feels unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

Still, what does it mean to deny being a disciple of Christ?  Does it mean giving in to the voices of fear and selfishness and apathy?  Does it mean betraying the one who loves us most—or those who love us most?  Does it mean settling for karma when grace is so abundantly present?

Fortunately for Peter, and for us, restoration is always offered.  In chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  This heart-wrenching exercise concludes with Jesus saying, “Follow me.” 

When we deny the best within ourselves, Jesus still says, “Follow me.”

(The image comes from rosanacasco.com/color/color_in_motion/peter_s_denial.jpeg.html)

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