Of the original disciples, Peter was the one Jesus relied on the most. And yet it was Peter who was outed as being the second biggest traitor (after Judas) when Jesus was arrested.
What happened to Peter? What made him hide who he really was?
Talk is cheap. Anyone can say anything until put to the test. Peter said he’d rather die than deny he was with Jesus (as did all the disciples). Then the test came just a few hours later, and Peter did exactly what he said he wouldn’t do – deny he knew Jesus, so as not to get killed.
And he did it not once, but three times.
Jesus told him beforehand that he’d betray him, but Peter refused to believe it. Jesus said: Before the cock crows, you’ll deny me thrice.
Peter said: No way!
Jesus said: Way.
Peter said: NO WAY!
Jesus said: Way.
And Jesus was right.
We all have a bit of Peter in us. Some of us have a lot of Peter in us. We talk a good talk, but when the test comes, who do we obey – God’s voice, or the voice of fear?
(The spirit is willing; the flesh is weak.)
Some of us are even that version of Peter stuck in a time-warp, denying over and over and over again that we know Jesus. To ourselves, oh yes, we’re Christians, but to the world – no way.
That’s how we deny Jesus like Peter did.
Jesus warned us about that. He said that if we deny knowing him, he’ll deny knowing us. That’s a pretty straight-forward warning. And if Jesus denies knowing us, we can kiss heaven good-bye.
Peter knew that if he admitted to being with Jesus, he would be signing his own death warrant. He didn’t want to die. It was as simple as that.
Outing ourselves as followers of Jesus can be uncomfortable. People stop liking us. People talk down to us. People accuse us of being bigots, racists, homophobes, relics of the ‘dark ages’. People start watching us like a hawk, and at our slightest slip-up, they triumphantly point their finger as us and shout “That’s not very CHRISTIAN of you!”
Sometimes, given the world’s response to us when we say we’re Christians, it’s easier just to say nothing. Sometimes it’s easier just to ‘go along to get along’, to hide that we believe in God and follow Jesus. But when we do that, we’re right back in the courtyard with Peter, warming our hands by the fire and sipping a latte while Jesus is out back getting beat up.
Jesus knew Peter would deny him, and later, after his resurrection, Jesus gave Peter another chance. He gave them all another chance, but first he bawled them out for being so hard-headed and cowardly, for having so little faith and for not paying attention to what he’d told them before his crucifixion.
Jesus has told us and shown us everything we need to know to make it to heaven. He beat down the path for us, but we still have to follow closely behind him on that path. Those who try to sneak into heaven another way are kicked out.
It’s not enough to say “I’m a good person” or “I try to be nice to people”. That’s not enough. We’re to go out in the world and preach the Good News, not the watered-down inter-faith version that the world accepts. The name of Jesus features prominently in the Good News. The Good News is all about Jesus. We, as his followers, should be all about Jesus.
Everyone who knows you should know you’re a Christian.
If they don’t, it’s not too late to let them know.
But some day – cock-a-doodle-doo – it will be too late.