THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
You Are a Part of This
WEEK VII / DAY III
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Scripture / Luke 22:54-62
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
We are almost to the end.
At this point, Peter is certain of what will happen to Jesus. He follows because he has to see. His eyes are unable to turn away from the way things are playing out. Perhaps he can’t believe it. Just days before… Yet it is so clear how it will end.
Peter’s words over the last few days have been marked with bravado and pretentious self-promotion. John 13:37-38 records Peter saying to Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you.” You can imagine Jesus’ compassionate sadness as he tells Peter what will really happen: “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” Then later in that same evening, when Jesus is arrested, it is Peter who jumps forward and cuts off Malchus’ ear.
So much bravado and posturing.
Boasting can work its way into the project of repentance. As you have engaged this Lenten Experience, perhaps you have had moments of self-promotion, self-righteousness, and other-centered contempt. These are familiar highs and lows that accompany the emotions of change.
Our History and Its Legacy / Peter follows at a distance
But here, at the end, as it is clear what will truly transpire, bravado is gone. Peter follows at a distance. He stays in the shadows. He disconnects.
Ironically, this is actually his opportunity to run forward, to stand at Jesus’ side, and to follow-through on that brave, but hollow, declaration — “I will lay down my life for you.” Yet, instead he hides and denies. He weeps, but he doesn’t act. In his forward to Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, Eugene Peterson calls this “sentiment” and he contrasts it with compassion: “Feeling sorry for the victims of injustice is not a prophetic act. We live in a culture that has replaced compassion with sentiment. Sentiment is mere feeling, disconnected from relationship. Sentiment is spilled compassion. It looks like concern; it could develop into compassion, but it seldom does.”
Peter’s boasting has miscarried into sentimentality.
Reflection and Response / Jesus knows Peter
Although this story of denial shows up in all four of the Gospel accounts, it is only Luke who tells us that Jesus turns and looks at Peter. It is such a poignant moment: Peter denies knowing Jesus, but with kind eyes Jesus acknowledges knowing Peter. Jesus reminds Peter who is hiding in the shadows, “You are a part of this.”
We all have those moments when we had the opportunity to say or to do something and we didn’t.
Jesus sees us in our silence and denial. Jesus sees us in our sentimentality. And Jesus sees our desire to follow-through even if the fruit is not there, yet.
We are almost to the end. You ARE a part of this. YOU are a part of this. Where has your repentance brought you? What will you do next?
Written by David Hanke