Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
This cartoon cracks me up. I am pretty sure I have said these same words as I exude lemon qualities. For me, this perfectly illustrates the basics about denial. The definition of denial is “the action of declaring something to be untrue (Google dictionary).” This is what we are talking about today. What happens when we deny the things about ourselves, who we are, and what is happening around us? The story we are going to read today in John is about Peter; Peter who will go to the ends of the earth for Jesus, Peter who should be called Rocky since he is so solid, Peter who follows Jesus from the very beginning and Peter who represents us so well. Peter ends up denying Jesus three times because he has fallen into the rest of the culture. His fear wins. The culture of fear around him wins. His discipleship wanes.
We are not so different from Peter. During Lent, we get to face head on what we have been denying all along. Even when we proclaim we are not bitter we may be denying what separates us from Jesus. The culture around us is telling us all sorts of things. The culture is telling us that if we just buy into this or that and make ourselves into something other than who we are, denying who we are and what we need to face, we will be better and more whole. In reality, in order to be a better disciple perhaps we need to face our fears and doubts and fess up to who we are. Our fears will not make us better people, facing them and claiming them just might. What would happen if we claimed our bitterness, our brokenness, our confusion, our grieving hearts? Could we more fully become disciples and claim that? Maybe only then will we find true restoration to God’s loving embrace.
Here is the good news. Jesus doesn’t deny who he is or that he claims us as disciples. Even though Peter denies Jesus, Jesus allows Peter to be one of the first to see him in the resurrected life. God does not deny us and gives us grace to claim who we are over and over again.
“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.” ― Isabel Allende
“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” ― Paulo Coelho
John 18: 12-27 (NRSV) So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Questions for the Week
When have you been in denial about who you are?
When have you been separated from God because of fear?
Do you relate to Peter? Why or why not?