St Peter’s Denial (Rembrandt ) (Rijksmuseum)
Wednesday in Holy Week
Luke 22. 54-62: Peter denies Jesus
‘The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”’ (Luke 22.61)
It is one of the most poignant and sad moments in Holy Week, when Simon Peter – as Jesus predicted – wilfully denies knowing Jesus. It is difficult for us to imagine the heat of the moment, with Jesus gradually being isolated and scapegoated (he has already been arrested), and the risk posed not only to Jesus, but to all his disciples. Nonetheless it is shocking that Peter, Jesus’ intimate friend and disciple, who has been alongside him these past three years, now denies knowing Jesus – such is his fear and trepidation. It is a moment from which Peter will always recoil, when he remembers his tragic failure of loyalty to his Lord, at this dark hour.
But the reality is, of course, that all of us, in different ways, at different times, enact the same disloyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ; and we too, when our unloving acts are revealed to us, recoil in shame and dismay. It may be that we, in times of moral weakness, deny being Christian or fail to stand up for Jesus in a conversation at work. Or it could be that when the going gets tough and life is hard – as with the present pandemic –we hide away as Christians, so people don’t identify us as believers. Or, in times of sin and temptation, we deny being followers of the Christ by our actions. The good news, however, is that Jesus forgives us, although he also challenges us – as he did Peter, after the resurrection – to ‘feed my sheep’, in other words to care for other people, God’s children.
Let us end today’s reflection with a prayer that we might repent and turn back to Jesus Christ, in times ofweakness, trial or temptation:
‘Lord Jesus, forgive us for failing you, as even the disciples did. Through thoughtlessness we betray you, through fear we run away from you; through cowardice we deny you, not wanting people to know that we are your followers. Have mercy on us, as you had mercy on Peter, and when the cock crows in our hearts, and we realise what we have done, help us to bear the gaze of your love. Amen.’
Rev James Shakespeare
*Image: Rembrandt, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons