Holy Friday: Peter’s Path

A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘You are certainly one of them too! Why your accent gives your away.’ Then he started cursing and swearing, “I do not know the man.’ And at once the cock crowed and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you would have denied me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:73-76

Heiromonk Seraphim Rose gave a brief and brilliant sermon on how all of us have the ability to betray Christ like Judas. It is good reading for this holy season and a timeless lesson of the faith. Please read it.

Just as we have the potential to be the ultimate betrayer, we are likely to be supreme deniers of our Lord. In the scriptures, we find Peter being bold enough to refute Jesus twice. The first time happened not long after the disciple correctly defined their master as being the Son of God. After Jesus foretold of His coming trials, persecution, and resurrection, Peter pulled Him aside saying that these things would not happen. There is a Satanic arrogance in a man that would dare try to correct Christ.

Peter Denies Christ

And this characteristic reared its ugly head again at the Last Supper. Jesus foretold how these very close disciples would all abandon Him when He is handed over to be tried and crucified. Peter declared that if all others failed, that he would never leave the Lord’s side. Less harshly than before, Jesus still calls the disciples arrogance with pin-point accuracy, ‘Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.’ The words of the Lord were true as Peter realized his failure.

When the rooster declared the new day coming, this disciple found that he was no better than the others. His high-minded declarations of loyalty to the Son of God came to nothing. Servant girls and bystanders heard this man who once dropped the nets of his livelihood to follow Him now curse and swear in order to disassociate himself from Him. The Galilean tongue was a giveaway that he couldn’t run away from. The cock’s crowing brought his mind to trial. Peter was found guilty in the court of his soul having been with Christ. What else could he do but weep bitterly. All of the disciples made the same such arrogant declaration. They all likely had their sound of a cock crowing.

And what of us? Isn’t it easy to make the same arrogant assertion that we will never abandon our faith in Jesus when belief in Him is widely accepted? And yet, we leave Him alone on a regular basis with our deeds, words, and thoughts. We commit sins in these three areas for the same reason Peter did, fear. We know that some habits, ways of speech, and trains of thought are not Christ like. But, we are afraid to let go of them as they comfort us, we are entrenched and heavily invested in them, people accept and embrace them, they are a part of our identity, And maybe we have been able to be recognized as a Christian without giving them up. Before the roosters in our lives call us out, we have shown a greater loyalty to our sins than to the Lord. Even the best of us have been called out in way or another.

Yet, there is something that gives Peter an advantage over Judas. The betrayer had no hope and ended his life. The denier wept bitterly. But he didn’t lose all hope. Peter followed the Lord closely. Even when Jesus rebuked him, he was not thrown out His inner circle of believers. In fact, Jesus drew the disciple closer and allowed him to see the Transfiguration and to keep watch while He prayed in Gethsemane. Perhaps in his tears, Peter may have also remembered the Lord’s promise of His resurrection. Perhaps the resurrected Lord would forgive him.

Deacon Christopher Mertens of St. Basil Orthodox Church, Hampton Virginia

Whatever sin we commit, we must never lose hope. Our Lord has not cast us away from Him and invites us to come closer that we may see more of His truth. Jesus knows our weaknesses and offers forgiveness to the repentant. However, we must come to the realization that we are not as spiritually strong as we think we are. This point of recognition crushes our egos and brings us to sorrow over our failures. Let us shed tears over our sins, but not lose hope for salvation. Today is only Friday. Sunday is coming.

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