Apr 9, 2009

If I were Peter, I'd be nowhere near the Courtyard

Here's an old Busted Halo column that I thought I'd share for Holy Thursday:

Usually when St. Peter’s denial of Jesus is recounted every Holy Week I find myself feeling somewhat superior. After all, Peter refuses to admit that he even knows Jesus—and here I am standing proud in my pew as a faithful follower of Christ. But this year I’ve begun to see that scene from the Gospel in a different light. Though Peter denies Jesus I wonder if on that tortuous night he also displayed a form of conflicted courage as well.

All the other apostles ran away in fear that night, but Peter followed Jesus all the way into the high priest’s courtyard (in Luke’s Gospel he even enlists another disciple who is known to the high priest to help get him into the courtyard). Certainly this was not an exercise for the timid. Peter even goes to warm himself by the fire where the very soldiers who arrested Jesus were also sitting—presumably one of the soldiers would remember the follower of Jesus who struck the high priest servant’s ear? (And one does, Peter’s second accuser was a kinsman of that very servant.)

Stay Close

Still, after being recognized he doesn’t run away. Perhaps he is simply trying to stay close to Jesus to find out what is to become of Him. So he lies, not merely out of fear for his own life but out of fear of being banished from the courtyard and losing sight of Jesus. Perhaps in his conflicted love he thought that if he could just keep Jesus in his sights, maybe there was something he could do to help? In Luke’s version Peter’s denial happens just out of earshot from where Jesus is standing. It is here that we read: “…and the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-63)

There’s a lot of Peter in all of us. And when faced with the choice of denying our Christianity or being flogged for it—we most often decline the invitation that leads us into suffering and take the easy way out.
Perhaps Peter is an example of faint-hearted, fearful discipleship in the story, but how often have I done even less in my own life?

Read the rest here.

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