Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.'” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him. 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’s Gospel shares with us two challenging scenes that have been recounted throughout the generations. The questioning, ridicule and abuse of Jesus while standing before the court of accusers and a crowd of onlookers is difficult to imagine, let alone witness. The disciples must have had an expectation of the Kingdom that Jesus had been speaking about, established through miraculous divine intervention void of any challenges, difficulties, pain, or suffering. This moment was not anticipated or expected, as the disciples were anticipating the immediate reshaping of their lives, identity, and authority.
The gospel reading quickly shifts to courtyard below and directs our attention toward Peter who is struggling so that he will not be seen and identified as a follower of this man named Jesus. I am certain that Peter was struggling to remain in the shadows and to avoid any of the spiritual or physical distress being experienced by Jesus. In this moment, Peter’s desire to be exempt from challenges, difficulties, pain, suffering, and responsibility moved him to deny being a follower of Jesus three times.
As disciples, we are invited to be followers of Jesus not for what we can get, but for what we have been gifted to give. The noted theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded all of us that there is a cost for discipleship. Many of us are missing opportunities to thrive and flourish because we are seeking to not be identified as a follower of Jesus by speaking up in life’s most problematic circumstances. Earlier in the ministry, Peter gave a great witness in the company of disciples. But in the face of this company, he lost his witness. There is a cost that must be considered so that our witness may be consistent no matter what the context. We may not choose moments like this, but our call is to have a faith so rooted in Jesus that we do not avoid moments like this. Let us keep following!
God of Grace and God of Glory, On thy people pour thy power; Crown thine ancient Church’s story; Bring her bud to glorious flower. Grant us wisdom, Grant us courage For the facing of this hour, For the facing of this hour. (Harry Emerson Fosdick)