Some reflections from my reading today.
Mark 14:66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus, she said. 68 But he denied it. I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about, he said, and went out into the entrance. 69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, This fellow is one of them. 70 Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean. 71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, I don’t know this man you’re talking about. 72 Immediately the cock crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: Before the cock crows twice you will disown me three times. And he broke down and wept.
I find this story remarkable and thought provoking because I can remember enough from my New Testament studies to know that there is fairly strong evidence that it was Peter who provided much of the material for Mark’s Gospel. Think about the implications of that for a minute, it means that more than likely Peter personally shared this story with Mark. To me that fact makes the final line all the more poignant. I am sure that sharing this story, recalling his terrible act of betrayal and his tears, must have been incredibly painful and probably humiliating for the big fisherman.
Yet Peter, who when he shared this story with Mark would have been one of the main leaders of the early church, didn’t try to hide his failure. He didn’t attempt to disguise or play down how terrible and complete his betrayal of Jesus had been or that it was magnified because of all of his earlier bravado about being willing to die for and with Christ. Peter tells the story “warts and all.” There is no spin doctor here trying to the put best possible spin on what Peter did. Peter is open, honest and authentic, He admits he blew it big time.
Now thinking about all of that makes me wonder why Peter was willing to be so honest about his failure? After all he could have kept quiet about it, no one would have ever known, his reputation would have been protected. I wonder if Peter was willing to be so authentic because he knew that many of us would need to learn the lessons he learned through his painful betrayal of Jesus?
God’s Grace is always greater than our sin.
With Jesus failure is never final.
For me the message from this incident and Peter’s subsequent life is that whatever we have done, there is always hope for the future.
That is certainly a message I need to hear What about you?
The other thing this story reminded me of is the power of authenticity. I had a conversation with a student yesterday who said that their relationship with God is private and they’d did want to talk to anyone else about it. If Peter had taken that attitude we would never have learned of this story and the countless people who have found renewed hope through Peter’s honesty here and his later restoration by Jesus would have been left in despair.
There are appropriate levels of authenticity for different settings but it does seem to me that too often in our churches too many of us shy away from authenticity and give the impression we have it “all together” and never make a mistake. That in turn creates unrealistic expectations and I think stifles grace because if we don’t share honestly our failures then we will never be able to share our stories of God’s healing transforming grace. Let’s not shy away from our failures, when we let Christ down, lets follow Peter’s example because in the words of the Old King Jimmy ” …. where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20