This morning I woke up a bit before the masses and hobbled into my office to greet the day with a little time in the Bible in an attempt to remember what this Easter week really entailed. I’m trying to read the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) in order so I get a good full view of what’s going on. Today I read about the last supper and I really saw so much of myself in Peter.
Peter approached each step of the journey as if it is the last ten minutes of the movie Rudy (if you haven’t seen this movie feel free to stop here. Not because I will bring it up again, because I won’t, but because something has gone terribly awry in your life). Peter was the first one to claim that Jesus was the Messiah and he is the one who jumps out of a boat to get the chance to walk on water to Jesus. He is also the one known throughout history as the one who in the end denied being with Jesus or even knowing him. Peter was the guy who pumps you up in the locker room before the big game, but who leaves the field when it appears you are beginning to fall behind.
In Mark 14:29 Peter says, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Jesus is being loving here, letting those who followed him know that this was the beginning of what he had been laying out would happen to him. In a little while you won’t see me and that will be hard and you will weep and mourn and be sorrowful. In John’s account (chapter 16) he walks us through this part of his story and then continues the preparation of his followers by letting them know that it will not always be this way. Something God is known to do repeatedly throughout the scriptures. Jesus lets them know that again in a little while you will see me because I am going to the Father. And the sorrow you felt when I was gone will turn to joy when I return. In verse 22 he lays out that “no one will take your joy from you.”
As Jesus continues to lay out what will happen he explains, “after I have risen, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” This is when Peter blurts out that he will never fall away. Peter interrupts Jesus preparing his followers for the end of his life, his death, and his resurrection to explain that he, Peter, will be the lone faithful one. The one guy who gets it right. Ahhhh Peter…you and me, bro. This is arguably one of Jesus’ most important encounters with his disciples, as he lays out what to do so they will not lose heart, so they will not lose faith, and so that the church may be what it was intended to be for the world. And in this moment Peter explains that he is going to nail it.
He goes on to say in verse 31 of the account in Mark 14 that, “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” Peter is missing the moment. Jesus has walked with these people and cared for their needs and shown them how to care for those around them. He has explained deep truths that they can build their life on in ways they can understand. He has healed friends and raised relatives from the dead. And now he goes to prepare a place for them to be with him. Meanwhile, Peter wants everyone to know he will remain faithful to the end.
Jesus was kind to Peter in telling him that he would deny him three times before the rooster crows twice. This is kindness because Peter will miss the moment if he is focusing on nailing it. This is the time to focus on Jesus. On his great love for those he has walked with. On his great sacrifice in the body and blood shed for you represented in the bread and wine. And in the hope that his words have always rang true and so they will again when he lays out that our sorrow will turn to joy and no one will be able to rob us of that God-given joy. Ever. If you are focusing on nailing it, then you are missing Easter.
Mark 14:72 says of Peter, “And he broke down and wept.” This is the part of the story that we have come to. Like Peter, we have made promises we haven’t kept, we have made some we never intended to keep. We have walked past those in need. We have allowed people to belittle entire portions of God’s creation. This should be the part where we sit down, break down, and weep. We can hear the rooster crow on this Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and know Peter’s betrayal and mine are no surprise to God. Perhaps it was exactly what he was addressing when he said, “You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20).
Here’s the joy: in Mark’s account when the angel tells Mary to go share the good news that Jesus is not here in the tomb, the angel asks her to go tell the disciples and Peter. Peter is still invited to come and see the risen Christ. Our joy, the one that cannot be taken away, lies in this and this alone. It is not in what we have done or will do, that we have been faithful or will continue to be so. Us nailing following Christ was never what we were banking on.
There have been years where after the Easter service at church I have been sad because I had missed it that year. I hadn’t paused to ponder and I hadn’t cherished up these things in my heart. Peter’s confidence was in his ability to never deny Jesus. Through Peter seeing his betrayal and Jesus walking towards him once again we see the hope of this Easter season. Do not miss the moment. You are not nailing it. Everyone is invited to the table to taste and see that the Lord is good.