John 13:36-38 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
It’s embarrassing to read this short passage because we know that Peter will fail and that Jesus is right in his assessment of his friend. Peter desperately wants to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. And yet Peter fails. When he is asked the simple question, “Are you one of his disciples?” by someone who had no real power and authority, Peter simply replies, “No.”
At that moment the cock crowed.
Years ago, I sat in the office of a very old pastor who told me something that he had pondered for a long time. “I now realize that I make fewer mistakes—commit fewer sins—than I did when I was a young man, but I am also much more aware of my tendency, and the possibilities, for doing some terrible, terrible things.” I think the old pastor knew well the human condition.
We are all called to look at the mistakes we make, the sins we commit, and seek ways to apologize, make amends, and change our behavior. We are even asked to take account of the actions of the larger groups of which we are a part (family, nation, race). And we canmake real progress in these endeavors. But we cannot erase or change what the old pastor knew so well: our tendencies and possibilities for damaging actions, even when we do not bring those tendencies and possibilities into action in our relationships with God and one another. Those realities we merely name and offer to God in the light of God’s reconciliation offered in Jesus Christ on Good Friday and Easter morn.
Now, today, we follow the cross and walk towards the empty tomb of Jesus.
- The Reverend Tom Macfie, University Chaplain, C'80, T'89