Back in highschool, I participated in a troupe called the “Franciscan Mystery Players”. Basically, we practiced and performed a prayerful and meditative play of the passion of Christ. We had a trailer with lights and costumes, etc. we’d hang out on car rides after school on Friday to some parish around the state, then we’d set up (hopefully with enough time to join the Parish’s fish fry) and perform the play. We’d then have some more bonding on the car ride home, and often finish with pie at village Inn.
The immediately important part of this backstory is that I spent much of this time playing the part of Peter, and have reflected on his role of the passion extensively in a personal meditation sort of way. The play had an audio track that we would mime to as actors, and the single line that stood out to me the most is simply the “I do not know him”. At the surface level, this is a simple lie to save face- a ‘white lie’ to avoid being counted as a criminal, or looked down upon. The thought that kept coming back to me, however, was what if it wasn’t a lie. At the time, as deep as this thought ever got was only that Peter was confused and bewildered, and was very possibly if he REALLY knew Jesus. It seemed plausible to consider this an honest and natural response to watching your friend “go off the deep end” and act in entirely unexpected ways.
Since then, I have reflected further and turned to scripture.
It is curious that John specifically identifies that ” Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (John 18:10-11). Jesus’ response to this specifically identifies this action as an attempt to change the Fathers will.
John continues to speak of the three denials, with the specific phrase “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” to which he replies “I am not” (John 18:17,25). This comes at a time for Peter where he literally just got corrected by Jesus as the last thing Jesus did before being arrested. To put myself in peters shoes, it would be so terribly difficult to consider myself his disciple after that! How honest of an answer- I do not follow him!
Now, the third denial has an interesting break of pattern: “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”. Again peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed (John 18:27). I admittedly make somewhat of a leap here, but I sometimes read in this a striking resemblance to Genesis 3:9- The Lord God then called to the man and asked him “Where are you?”. The immediate response to this question, at that time, is ‘In the garden of Eden’. Similarly, the third denial emphasizes that Peter was in the garden with Jesus. Returning to the obvious answer of the three denials “Peter lied as to avoid being counted a criminal or looked down upon”, it is strikingly obvious that Peters final actions or his disobedience in the garden are the lesser truth to who he is. Similarly, the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden is the lesser truth to who they are.
Adam and Eve ate a fruit pleasing to the flesh, despite God’s instruction not to, and brought death.
In the sacrifice of Jesus, God ate a cup of death to the flesh, despite Peter’s protest, and restored life.
By this narrative, there are two conclusions that are really one:
1) Our refusal of God’s will for us does not break who we are, who we intended to be, or who He wants us to be. Adam, Eve, and Peter were all in the garden with Him.
2) His will is True life. Adam and Eve pursued what to the flesh appeared as life and found in it death. Jesus pursued what to the flesh appeared as death and found in it restored life.
Both of these points, when practically applied lead to the same conclusion- Follow Him! Do not deny his will in action, and do not deny who you are. Eat and drink as he tells you and find life.
Mark, and Luke- to be continued.