Wednesday, April 4th. Mark 14:66-72

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.  Mark 14:66-72

 

People who grew up in small towns and close-knit neighborhoods tell stories of how it was hard for them to get away with anything.  Word would spread from parent to parent and reach their home before they did.  In those days, and in those places, “what the neighbors thought” mattered.

 

People who grew up in prominent families were often told (especially as they headed out the door as teenagers at night), “Remember who you are and who you represent.”  Once again, “what the neighbors think” mattered.

 

Like so many good gifts of God, there is a light side and a dark side to the social dynamic of “What will the neighbors think?”  As a deterrent to misbehavior, or as a goal of protecting a good name and reputation, it is actually a positive force.  It is a key thread in the social fabric of life. But when it becomes a fearful smokescreen it chokes us.

 

Peter denied Jesus because he was afraid of what the neighbors would think, not to mention what they might do.  To him. 

 

In a very real and undeniable way, Peter knew that guilt by association would mean that he would be brought into the same room as Jesus and subject to just what Jesus was going through.  To protect himself, Peter denied knowing Jesus.  Just as Jesus had said he would.  Peter broke down and wept.

 

Once again Holy Week strips us of the pretensions we might hide behind that would suggest that we are any different than those earliest disciples of Jesus.  How many times, for fear of what the neighbors might think (from teen peer pressure to adult social climbing), have we said or done things that go contrary to our principles, against our best intentions, drawing forth the worst in us?

 

None of this surprises Jesus.  None of this prevents him from loving us anyway.  Or from using us, like Peter, to do wonderful things on the other side of confession, repentance, and surrender.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, forgive us for our fickleness, our fearfulness and our self-centeredness. Forgive us for harshly judging our neighbors and from allowing others to be god in our lives.  And thank you for these stories, painful though they be, for they expose us and the depth to which you love us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

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