Lent

2016 - Good Friday: Peter's Feet of Clay

2016 - Good Friday: Peter's Feet of Clay

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied me three times.”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man was also with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 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.” And he went out and wept bitterly. —Luke 22:31-34, 54-62

This is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible. Every time I hear it or read it, I can picture the scene. Peter the loudmouth, Peter the impulsive, Peter the confident, Peter the spokesman, sitting away from the Lord he has followed for three years, warming himself by the fire with other hangers-on and servants of those who have arrested Jesus and brought him to trial. He who has promised to follow his Lord to the bitter end, no matter what, “even if everyone else turns away,” skulking in the background hoping not to be seen and recognized. Where are his assurances, where is his confidence now? Peter hardly looks like a rock.

Looking at Peter here, what has he got to say to us as United Methodist Women members? It's easy to condemn him. All of us like to think that in such a case as this, we would be different. Peter was, after all, a pretty severely flawed individual.

Facing Challenges

Was he? Or was he a very clear picture for those of us who take a stand in confidence and then are faced with all the sharp edges of that stand? United Methodist Women has faced many challenges and we have taken many stands through the years. Right now, among many other things, we are working hard on the issue of Native American rights and correcting the wrongs done to Native American, often with the misplaced consent of our Methodist Church. It’s a good stand to take, but it will cost. Something as seemingly simple as demanding a high school sports team change their name will bring rage from some quarters

Peter had seen the cost of following Jesus, to a point. He had been willing to be hungry and cold, and he had been along for the trip when the Pharisees questioned Jesus' parentage, and when people in Nazareth chased him to the top of a hill to stone him. Peter had seen how Jesus handled the cost, and the spirit with which he did so engendered confidence. When one follows a leader of strength and purpose, it's easy to get in line and follow. United Methodist Women has had many great leaders, and we have been eager to work with them in the trenches. Having such visionary leaders strengthens us and gives us a clear picture of what it is we're working for.

The thing that Peter didn't understand in that upper room that night was that he was about to have to step out on his own. Even later on, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he cut off the servant's ear to save his Lord, Jesus was there, still performing miracles. He put the ear back where it belonged. Then he was taken away, seemingly under the control of others. I think that was a turning point for Peter.

What to Do

Peter still followed. Sometimes we forget that. Peter went with Jesus, even if it were from a distance. Jesus had told him that physical violence was not the way, and so Peter was left without anything to do. There are times when that happens to us. We know what must be done, we know how to do it, and we know we can solve this problem. Yet the Lord tells us, “Not this time, not this way.” But we don’t know how we should proceed. Then we feel at sea, being tossed around with no anchor. And we feel weak and unable to move forward.  

Once Peter had been full of confidence in his own faith. Now he didn't know what to do, so he sat nearby with his own thoughts, and those thoughts weren't helping him.

Jesus knew this would happen. When Peter vowed to stick with him to the bitter end, Jesus told him, “Listen!”

“Before the cock crows this day, you will deny you even know me, not once, not twice, but three times.”

“No, not me, Lord. That can't be true, not me. You don't understand how much I love you, or how sincere I am.”

 “Three times, Peter.”

Maybe Peter drew that sword to prove to his Lord that he really meant what he said. And then Jesus told him to put the sword away.

Now he was sitting by the fire while Jesus was on trial. And now the moment had come.

Three times Peter denied him.

He stopped in mid-sentence and Jesus' sad words came flooding into his mind, his heart, his soul.

“Three times, Peter. You will deny me three times before the cock crows.”

Peter turned and looked toward Jesus, and Jesus was looking back.

And Peter went out and wept bitterly.

I know what it feels like to weep like that. I'm sure you do too. Peter was struck down flat; gone was his confidence, gone was his bravado, gone was the person he thought he was. How could he have ever done such a thing? Later, after the resurrection, Jesus asked him if he loved him, and Peter tried hard to answer, but the words wouldn't come. Jesus asked three times, and, in the Greek, we can see that each time he asked he diminished the word—the Greeks have three words for love. “Do you love me?” “Do you love me like a brother?” “Do you even like me?” And then Peter could say, “Oh, Lord, you know I love you!” No longer the loudmouth, Peter has learned to trust God, not his own strength, and he is restored.

Taking Stands

As United Methodist Women members, we do so much. We take stands. For 150 years we have taken stands and have gone out into the world to make it better. We've spread God's love wherever we are and wherever we go. As we continue on in this work, it is good to remember our human-ness, our shortcomings and limits. We are not only women who are United Methodists, we are women of Christ, women of God, followers of Jesus. That's why we do what we do. Like Peter, we want to always be there to do the work, to give the love. And mostly we do wonderful things for God. Peter did. Instead of taking judgment from this passage of scripture, we can take heart that no one can do this work in their own strength, and we have someone who is there to help us along the way. Amen.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for this scripture. Thank you that You are the One in Whose strength we do the work before us. In this season of Lent, let us renew our faith and “mount up with wings like eagles.” In Jesus' name, Amen  


Patricia Parent is a Native storyteller, musician, writer and lifelong student of the Bible. She and her husband of 41 years (a United Methodist elder whom she met at Bible college) live in Fall River, MA.

Posted or updated: 3/25/2016 12:00:00 AM




Our Lenten Journey

In this season of Lent, we are reflecting on the 150-year legacy of United Methodist Women. Each of our Lenten reflections is part of our ongoing legacy of putting faith, hope and love into action.

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