Bishop's Reflection #10: Peter's Denial of Jesus

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The anniversary of the first lockdown on March the 23rd will be a deeply poignant time for many of us as individuals, but also collectively as a society. For many will be the memory of loved ones who have died during the course of this last year. For others it will be a whole range of emotions looking back on a year which has been filled with much suffering and pain. For some it will be the loneliness, for some it will be the loss of a sense of purpose in their work or indeed their personal life.

And I'm reminded as I've been reflecting on the stories of Jesus death and resurrection during this Lent season that there is a very key moment in the narrative of Jesus arrest and then trial concerning one of his followers who must, I think have for years afterwards, lived with a sense of failure. Of letting down the person who was most important to him. The story is a famous one it's that of Peter who is told in advance by Jesus that he is going to deny him, deny even knowing him. And Jesus talks about the cock crowing and at that moment Peter will realize what he's done.

And sure enough we then get a detailed account of Peter following Jesus as Jesus is taken by the soldiers into the high priest's court to be tried. And as the people mill around in the courtyards various people then say to Peter 'you are one of his followers' and Peter denies it. The end of the account in Matthew's Gospel has the cock crowing, Peter realizing what he's done and we're simply told that he wept bitterly. I can recognize something of that feeling of disappointment, of having let somebody down of, even feeling like a failure. I think many of us can from this past year as so many of the things that gave us purpose and meaning in life seem to have been stripped away. And yet of course that's not the end of the story for Peter; we don't know how long he lived with that sense of failure, of letting someone down. But what we do know is that in John's Gospel we get the story that after Jesus resurrection he quite deliberately, it would appear, seeks out Peter and has a deeply personal conversation with him in which he effectively commissions him to care for his sheep, his followers.  It's a lovely sense I've always thought of Jesus recognizing Peter's sense of failure and of wanting to reaffirm him and recommission him for his work.

So if you, like me, have found yourself wondering about how you've let people down or whether you've been a failure during this time. Then I hope you will draw comfort from knowing that Jesus seeks out those in that position and wants to commission them afresh; to work with him, to bring comfort and healing to others. So my prayer for you, whatever your circumstances, whatever your feelings at this time,
is that you will know that Jesus is not only with you and loves you but indeed commissions you for a new work of caring for others,  of loving them and of helping them to understand more of God's purposes for their lives.


First published on: 22nd March 2021
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