28 January – 3 February 2018.

Mark 14:53–72 (click to read).

In Mark 14 we find a story of two trials. Inside the home of the High Priest, Jesus is on trial before the chief priests, elders and scribes. We watch sadly as the council plots and lies together, beating Jesus, abusing him, and condemning him.

But outside in the courtyard, Peter is going through a trial of his own and facing his own challenges and accusations. Peter is supposed to be “The Rock”, Jesus’s solid and dependable friend, the one who is always there for Jesus. But now when things get tough Peter the Rock crumbles. He fails to stand up for Jesus and three times he denies that he even knows who Jesus is. Peter’s trial was to see whether he would hold onto Jesus, whether he would let the world know that he really belonged to Jesus. But sadly Peter failed. When the rooster crows and Peter realizes how he has failed his Lord and best friend, he breaks down and weeps bitterly. In Mark’s gospel, this is the last time we ever see Peter. In tears, weeping as a failure, he disappears from the story forever.

Peter wanted nothing more than for people in the courtyard to think of him as just an ordinary person, the same as everyone else. He tried hard to hide his connection to Jesus – and he succeeded. But isn’t this a temptation for us, too? Don’t we also often try to hide our connection to Jesus and want not to be recognized as Christians? When others look at our behaviour, when people listen to the way we speak to others and treat them, would they really know that we are Christians? How sad it is today that many people often wouldn’t recognize us as belonging to Jesus at all. We have done so well to blend in with everyone else, to become no different in our lives from anyone else, that we don’t stand out as special anymore. That’s a terrible shame.

While it’s very true that as believers we must not aggressively push our faith on others or show off our faith, Jesus does still want us to be recognizably different: to be little lights of compassion, joy, and love in this world.

The good news is that if in the past we (like Peter) have failed this test and done our best to stop people knowing we belong to Jesus, that doesn’t mean we have to continue doing this in the future! In this new year, let’s pray that through our acts of love and care, through our concern for others and our concern for justice, goodness, and peace, that people will know that we really are different – because we belong to Christ.

Pastor Stephen Lakkis