Peter’s Denial

main point

The main point seems to be that Peter denied Jesus three times by the cock crow. John differs from the other gospels by separating the first denial and sandwiching other material between it and this passage. All four canonical gospels depict this — so I gather it to be significant. A strong tradition which the early church felt needed to be preserved. In John alone will a three-fold forgiveness undo this in the resurrection. Another difference: the Synoptics depict a sudden flash of awareness in Peter at the sound of the crow. Peter realizes he has fulfilled his Master’s prophesy and weeps. John remains silent on this.

new light

No new light as such. New questions. Why is this story important for the first Christians to preserve? I don’t know.

truth

Following George Fox’s instructions on how to read scriptures — cited in his journal — I take Peter with his denial into myself and ask how I am like Peter.

I am Peter — I do not own Christ when put to the test. An atheist co-worker and I have a number of discussions on religion fairly regularly. Last night he introduced me to his wife as the guy trying to convert him — I denied it.

I brooded on it later. We saw our discussions differently I suppose. I was not witnessing to him — I have been careful to point out the limitations of faith and religion in my conversations and have not been trying to win him over or win the argument. I have tried to — always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15) but fail even in that — I equivocate.

My sense of the complexity of truth and the ambiguity present in matters of faith is stronger than my certitude — there is perhaps more of Socrates than Jesus in me.

implications

Perhaps in the resurrection Jesus will confront me for each time I could have witnessed and instead was silent — and each time Christ will commission me and forgive.

In the meanwhile — like Peter — I will need to be faithful as I can and not as I cannot.

problems

I feel no stop in my mind with this passage and that is itself a problem. Some bible stories are so familiar they no longer challenge us to faithfulness. They offer no problem as we can no longer read them for the first time.

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9 responses

  1. David, I think there was a “lot of Socrates” in Jesus, too, which makes you two of a kind.”Why is the story important”? I’ve tried to address that (to some degree) in my post.Re talking with atheists: at that point we become fishers. We can expect many mistakes before we catch one (as for fishing for fish, I’ve never been worth a darn).With atheists I begin with the realization that they are more serious about God than half the “Christians” I know. They don’t give him an hour on Sunday; they give him a piece of their mind.I go back to my favorite quote from old Bob: “love the hell out of ’em”. But perhaps St. Francis is better:”Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”Hang in there, Friend and brother.

  2. Hi David. It’s tough to know what to say to non-believers. I used to be one, and to me back then, the best testimonial of faith was the way a person led their life – that was more convincing than any theological argument. As someone (St. Francis?) once said … be perfect – you may be the only gospel your brothers and sisters ever read.

  3. I’m actually feeling no obligation to convert the fellow — though there is a client in our office who does feel such a compunction.He is already “saved” — he is essentially a good person from what I can see. He is one of those of whom Paul said, someone who without the law does what the law requires.I think he is also seeking — though what I’m not sure. I’m coming to see my role may be to be there to help in discernment should he hear a call.

  4. A couple of really nice comments here. Larry said:”With atheists I begin with the realization that they are more serious about God than half the “Christians” I know. They don’t give him an hour on Sunday; they give him a piece of their mind.”I like this statement a lot. There is much truth in it. One of the things I have come to believe (only recently) is that God doesn’t necessarily expect us to find the Truth, but he does expect us to seek it; he expects us to engage. Someone who professes atheism, who studies and thinks and reflects on the nature of the world and human existence, may be closer to that ideal than a good church-going Christian who sings hymns on Sundays and drops money in the collection plate and then forgets about it until next week.The other thing I keep in mind in this context is that I am not privy to the leadings God may give to others. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, though.I also liked what Crystal said:”I used to be [a non-believer], and to me back then, the best testimonial of faith was the way a person led their life – that was more convincing than any theological argument.”I absolutely agree. I don’t think it would have been possible for anyone to “logic” me into Christianity. It had to come from within.The downside of this is that there are professing Christians who are most decidedly not good role models (in my opinion, of course — see my remark above about not always understanding the leadings that others receive). That’s just something we have to accept.I’ve recently been reflecting on the fact that there are professing Christians that I feel very uncomfortable being associated with, and that made me think about the fact that Jesus dined with publicans and sinnners. At first I just decided that some of these professing Christians were just my own personal “publicans and sinners” — but then I realized how arrogant and self-important I sounded when I thought those words — and also how cowardly I was (just like Peter!) to deny people who are, like me, doing the best they can with whatever leading God sends them.

  5. One part of traditional faith-talk is the notion taht everything happens for a reason. I do not buy into that one personally. And it is one of the notions that keeps my atheist friend from accepting faith.If everything happens for a reason then we are actors on a stage. But we are not — we are co-authors of the play. And so there is much that happens that is not God’s perfect will. And yet, even then — God has provided opportunities to us to grow into that which we are called to be.

  6. “Everything happens for a reason.”I think my usage of this phrase may be problematic, and a little idiosyncratic.I did not mean to imply predestination, although I can easily see how someone could reach that conclusion. What I meant was that I believe each of us receives what we need from God. Whether we make use of what we receive is another question entirely — and of course, nobody makes perfect use of that which he or she is given (although I think we all try).My intent in my previous comment was to say that if some people do not accept Christianity in the way I understand it (or do not accept it at all), I assume that there is some reason for that, i.e., that God is leading them in the way that is best for them, and they are responding to that leading as best they can.But I probably need a better “nutshell” phrase to describe that idea.

  7. maybe. maybe not. It happens to be one of my hobby horses. And what you say is likely a common attitude amongst Christians. So I’m likely the minority voice on this issue.I’m more interested in how beliefs function in the lives of folks than in the content. Everything happens for a reason tends to encourage folks to accept some troublesome aspect of life rather than see it as a call from God to do something about it. Not always. But often.

  8. “Everything happens for a reason tends to encourage folks to accept some troublesome aspect of life rather than see it as a call from God to do something about it. Not always. But often.”I agree with this entirely. That’s why I said that my use of that phrase might be problematic. Saying that “everything happens for a reason” should not be taken as an excuse to do nothing. The “reason” may very well be to draw one’s attention to a problem so that the problem can be addressed. As for you being in the minority, that doesn’t trouble me — I often find myself in the minority wrt my beliefs. I have no wish to put words in your mouth, but it sounds as if you are being led to be aware of the troubles around you, and are doing your best to respond to those troubles.I don’t think we are all that far apart in our thinking. I’m just not expressing my ideas very well.

  9. here is an interesting post by Jon on being an athiest (with a twist!)http://www.frimmin.com/mt/archives/000122.html

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