Holy Week reflection: Wednesday (Luke 22:54-62)
As the situation unfolds, following Jesus’ capture, Peter is reacting in the moment. It seems that others have deserted Jesus entirely but not Peter. He’s the one who follows at a distance. In the circumstances he takes what seem like quite reasonable self-preservation measures.
When challenged, he denies knowing Jesus. Of course, what Jesus doesn’t know won’t hurt him, will it? He isn’t there. He can’t hear the denials, and they enable Peter to stay close enough to get a glimpse, perhaps be within earshot of what is going on. Peter is surely acting with the best of intentions, as different people challenge him.
And then after the third denial:
‘The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the clock crows today, you will deny me three times”. And he went out and wept bitterly.’ (v61)
In the news this week I’ve read about medical staff working in the NHS, treating patients with COVID-19 suffering something called ‘moral injury’. That’s a reaction to when something happens that goes against someone’s moral code or conscience. In the case of medical staff, it might be denying treatment to someone they know needs it, and they would ordinarily treat, because of a lack of resources.
Peter here has found himself in circumstances that led him to behave in a manner he told himself, Jesus, and the other disciples that he would never do. And in that moment when Jesus looked at him, he realised what he’d done, and Peter’s anguish and distress were immediate.
Jesus too finds himself in circumstances that he appears to have little influence over. There is an inevitability about his questioning before the council. It seems the outcome is already decided. As Jesus says:
“If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer.”
Jesus knows what is coming. In the previous chapter he had prayed “yet not my will but yours be done”. The cross, at this point, appears to be an inevitability.