During the reading of Christ’s Passion, our focus is on Jesus, and rightfully so. But have you ever reflected on the actions and activities of the other disciples? One apostle that is mentioned by name several times during the sequence of events is Peter.
I’m not sure if it’s boldness or brashness that Peter displays as we first encounter him at the last supper, when he challenges Jesus during the washing of the feet. First he protests Jesus doing such a menial task, but then swings to the total opposite of the spectrum and asks the Lord to wash all exposed parts (hands, head and feet). Peter is not focused on the teaching of the moment, but rather the specific action Jesus takes.
Peter continues his seemingly reckless responses as Jesus talks about being betrayed. Confident of his love for Christ, he declares that he will not betray Jesus even to the point of death. His faith, while strong, is still in a development stage, which can be illustrated by his actions in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus takes the apostles to the garden to await Judas’ betrayal. He charges the apostles to pray and steps deeper into the garden to pray alone to the Father. Three times He comes back to the apostles and three times they are all asleep. He addresses Peter specifically:
“Asleep, Simon? You could not stay awake for even an hour? Be on guard and pray that you may not be put to the test. The spirit is willing but the nature is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38)
Lastly, we find Peter in the courtyard of the high priest. While others ran away, Peter followed at a distance to find out what was happening. It is here that Christ’s prophecy of Peter’s threefold denial comes true. When Jesus talked about a betrayer among the twelve, He meant Judas Iscariot. Jesus uses Peter’s rash declaration of never betraying Christ to show just how easy it can be in the small, everyday circumstances to begin the betrayal by denying a relationship with Him. The crowing cock is Peter’s wake up call to what he has done, and to the awareness that Jesus knew what he would do. Peter, the strong fisherman who was ready to take on the world with Jesus, “broke down and began to cry.” (Mark 14:72)
While to some, Peter can seem like a bit of a knucklehead, I find comfort in his honest responses. How easy it is to be confident when everything is going well, but when things get rough, our confidence is put to the test. How often have I responded to Jesus like Peter did? How often have I been sleeping when the Lord needed me? If Peter, in the physical presence of Jesus, responded by challenging and denying God and was not just forgiven, but entrusted with a mission, then there is hope for little ol’ me. Let us ask Saint Peter to help us through this Holy Week to see how we can grow in our love of the Lord and have true confidence in Jesus as we carry our daily crosses.