Just then a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows two times, you will say three times that you do not know me.’ And he broke down and cried. [GNB Mark 14.72]
One verse says so much. One moment of panic changed Peter’s life; one slip, which actually made no difference to Jesus’ journey towards Calvary, though it made it an even lonelier journey.
Imagine your sins being written into the narrative of God’s redeeming work with humanity. We could let our imaginations run riot over Peter’s thoughts now: a wry smile perhaps, or we hope that he’s so taken up with looking at the glory of God that all that’s past?
However, it’s better to look at our response to shame, our sense of letting ourselves down, which is where this episode left Peter. He’s the rock on which the church is to be built. Certainly in one major tradition of the scripture material, he’s the first apostle, but he’s a fractured vessel, a cracked pot, a blunt instrument for the work of God. In essence, he’s St Punctured Pride Peter. And so are we.
We spend quite a lot of our time thinking of ourselves as fundamentally OK folks, glad to be blessed by the grace of God. And then the momentary lapse which cannot be called back. The words are out in the public domain, and the relationship will never be the same again. At the point of our shame, we know ourselves as we actually are before God, naked, empty, lost, the shame of Adam and Eve is our shame.
Extraordinarily, this point, when Peter weeps, when we lament our lost innocence (an innocence we never had) is the point at which God really begins to do business with us. We discover grace: love that does not measure us by our actions; the gift of reconciliation though we don’t deserve it. And in our tears, as we watch Jesus watching us, we find a new and more honest way to live, the way of the redeemed sinner, ever indebted, ever grateful, never doubtful of God, because it does not depend any more on anyone’s opinion of our actions, not even ours.
Lord Jesus, as Peter betrayed you,
you experienced the double agony of love rejected and friendship denied:
be with those who know no friends and are rejected by society.
You understood the fear within Peter:
help us to understand the anxieties of those who fear for their future.
To you, Jesus, who gazed with sadness at your lost friend,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.