March 24, 2013 – Palm Sunday C
Isaiah 50:4-9; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:39:23:49
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times. And he went out and wept bitterly.
It all happens so fast to Peter. And it is so heartbreaking. He’s entered these hours with the highest commitment. Everyone else might desert the Lord, but Peter knows that will not be him. He’s not really looking down on others. He’s just committed to his Lord. He knows, even though it’s been a surprising journey, that Jesus is surely the Messiah. I’d do anything for Jesus, Peter thinks and, up to now, he’s delivered pretty well on that commitment.
It’s all happened so fast. Just a few days ago, Jesus was doing what he had been doing for a few years – traveling around to preach and teach and heal. The miracles of his presence were being played out. People in need were being transformed. The disciples themselves were growing in their understanding of these brand new things that Jesus brought. Each day they are feeling better and better about how things will end up with Jesus. And then Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. Not there, they all protest. That’s where everybody is who’s against you. Stay out here where it’s safe and where things are going so well. Don’t go to Jerusalem. But off he goes and, shaking their heads in confusion, they all follow.
Then the huge crowd that is gathering for the Passover greets Jesus like a hero. There he is! There’s the one everyone’s talking about. Hosanna to the King! Jesus enters with the parade of palms, the ticker tape parade of the day, the flash mob. Wow, the disciples think, this is amazing. Everyone’s seeing what we see.
And then, boom, it all turns on a dime, shifts dramatically, and spirals right toward the outcome they all feared. Jesus is captured. He won’t bow and scrape. Jesus challenges the authorities. He doesn’t try to escape. He accepts the events and doesn’t resist them. What is this all about?, Peter must be thinking as he sits outside in the courtyard while Jesus meets the High Priest.
And then, suddenly, the attention turns toward Peter. The serving maid confronts him: This man also was with them. Before he can even think, he blurts out, Woman, I do not know him.
Can you identify? Did you lie to me? No, sir. Did you cheat on that test? No, ma’am. You care about your job more than me. No, I don’t; I came home early just the other day. The reason you help others is so you’ll feel better about yourself. No it isn’t, I’m doing good things. You’re trying to control everything. No, I’m not; I just want things to be right. Before we even know what we’re saying, those defensive words pop out of our mouths. It’s like we’re suddenly in a war and some self-preservation instinct jumps up. Woman, I do not know him.
And then the matter gets pressed. Another challenger confronts Peter: You also are one of them. I am not. We know it’s a lie but there’s still a way out if we keep fighting. No, I didn’t do it. I swear. Then everybody turns on Peter: you are one of them! I do not know what you are saying. And then the cock crows. It rings in his ears, the words Jesus had told him. You’ll do what everyone else does when it comes down to it. O, God, Jesus. I can’t believe it happened. I was trying so hard. I wanted to support and follow and be there. What just happened? It’s like somebody else said that. That’s not what I wanted to say. This isn’t who I want to be. Peter’s heart breaks as he realizes what he’s just done. And ours breaks with him.
His is the human condition in 3-D. It’s all of us right there where we know it’s true. And it’s on exhibit throughout this passion narrative. Jesus finds the disciples sleeping when they should be praying. The disciples forsook him and fled. The crowd spits in his face and some slapped him. Judas comes back trying to make the pain of his earlier decision go away but it’s too big for him. The crowd cries out for the release of Barabbas and they all cry out, Crucify him. Crucify him. Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing. The soldiers mock him. On and on, the human condition is revealed.
Finally the human condition costs Jesus of Nazareth his life. The human condition succumbs to evil and the cost is so very high.
And we gather today, not just to remind each other what a sorry lot we are, though a very important step in our journey is to accept our fallen nature. But we gather today, not just to remind each other of that. We gather to confess our own need of a savior. Everybody in the passion narrative is trying as hard as they can and it’s just not enough. We’re trying as hard as we can it’s just not enough. We need a savior. And our savior has come. Jesus the Christ lays down his life so that we might gain the life we want so very much.
This week, Holy Week, it’s all there for us to see. As we go day by day through this week it will all be revealed. The human condition will be laid out for us. The nature of God will be revealed. Be faithful to the task. Do your work each day and allow God to do his work in your heart. Admit your need for a savior and know that the savior has come.