Summary: If there was one person who typified what a disciple should be, it was Peter. Peter is mentioned in the Gospels more than any other disciple and for good reason. He was passionate about his faith. He gave all of himself to whatever he was doing. He was th
Peter and Denial
If there was one person who typified what a disciple should be, it was Peter. Peter is mentioned in the Gospels more than any other disciple and for good reason. He was passionate about his faith. He gave all of himself to whatever he was doing. He was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and not just a rabbi or teacher. He was always the first to volunteer whenever Jesus needed something done. He was the first to answer Jesus’ questions, almost annoyingly so. And he was the first to profess his faith and give his life to Jesus.
Yet it was that same zealous, “dive in head first without looking” attitude which also got him in trouble. At the Transfiguration when Jesus met with Elijah and Moses, Peter proclaimed, “Jesus, this is wonderful! We will make three shrines (or tents)…” and stay here.” Yet Jesus was a man on a mission and a messiah on the move. Peter didn’t get it. When Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was, Peter answered “the Messiah.” But when Jesus told them of his impending death, Peter took Jesus aside and told him he couldn’t do that. Jesus responded to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are seeing things from a human point of view and not God’s!” Then at the last supper when Jesus revealed that one of the disciples would betray him, it was Peter who said, I’m ready to die for you. Just hours later Peter was denying Jesus three times.
The experience of Peter teaches us that we have all denied Jesus too. First, we deny Jesus by our words. Matt Roush in USA Today writes, “The tongue has the power of life and death….” That may sound a bit extreme. I mean how can words kill anyone? But consider Karen Carpenter, the popular singer from the 1970’s who died in 1983 of heart failure as a result of complications with anorexia. What started it all? A reviewer called her “chubby.” That little word was all it took to start her on that tragic journey toward anorexia and death. Or consider Rev. Dr. Robert Matton who was ill treated by several church leaders through secret meetings and campaign to fire him. and was summarily fired without cause by the Binbrook United Church. With that, all of his plans, hopes and dreams for ministry were destroyed. On Sept. 17 after throwing all of his ministry resources away, he went on a walk with his wife during which he collapsed of a heart attack, a broken heart, at the age of 55. This caused by the body of Christ which he had faithfully served for 3 years. Our words either build up or tear down. They either bring the unity which Jesus prayed for in His church or disunity. We either profess our faith in Jesus by what we say or we deny Him.
Second, we deny Jesus by our walk. Not only are we called to practice what we preach, we have to practice what we hear and learn about following Jesus. It’s not only how we live and act on Sunday mornings but the other six days of the week outside the walls of the church. If we are one kind of Christian on Sunday mornings and another kind Monday through Saturday, then we are only fooling ourselves about our faith. When our lives do not express the faith we profess, then we deny Christ by our walk. We deny Jesus by our works, or lack thereof. If a person is truly a follower of Jesus, this will be evidenced by the work they do for Christ and the fruit their life produces. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” This is why we as Methodists emphasize Works of Mercy at the heart of our discipleship. We are called to put our faith into practice for James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” So the product of our faith should be to meet the needs of others. At the heart of these acts is justice. Where acts of mercy are, justice is and where justice is, acts of mercy are. Our acts not only meet the needs of others, they also express this mercy in the context of God’s justice done on the cross. In doing so, we are helping to build the Kingdom of God, one act of Mercy at a time, in one life at a time.
Third, we also deny Jesus by our witness. “A true witness delivers souls; but a deceitful witness speaks lies.” Proverbs 14:25 We are called to make disciples by sharing the Good News of what Christ has done on the cross and is doing in our lives. It’s the most important news of all. George Sweeting tells of John Currier who was found guilty in of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later, he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, TN. Life was hard on that farm and without hope. But then in 1968, John Currier’s sentence was commuted and a letter informing him of the news was sent. There was just one problem: he never got it. So John kept on doing what he was doing even after the farmer for whom he worked had died. Ten years went by and then a parole officer discovered John Currier’s plight. He told him his sentence had been commuted and that he was a free man. Then George Sweeting writes, “Would it matter to you that someone sent you a message, the most important message of your life…and (it) was never delivered?” We ( like the Parole office) who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others who don’t know (it)…And yet sharing our faith is our greatest fear. Are we doing all that we can to make sure that people get the message?” When we fail to do so, we deny Jesus.