July 2020 was a pivotal moment in my family’s life. Not only had Covid-19 disrupted life as we knew it, but we also sold our home of 12 years and moved 12 hours away. It was one of those experiences that define a journey. You can probably name moments like that in your own life—specific moments about which you say, “That was when everything changed.” Perhaps it was a birth, a death, a job change, a diagnosis, a global pandemic. We’ve all had moments when life as we knew and understood it changed, and most of us can testify to the anxiety, confusion, reactivity, and fear that often accompany such monumental shifts.
Peter is experiencing such a moment in Mark 14.
Jesus has been arrested and taken before the high priest where he is questioned and assaulted, while Peter waits outside in the courtyard, warming himself by a fire. Both Jesus and Peter are accused of being who they are—Jesus, of claiming to be the Messiah, and Peter, of being one of Jesus’ disciples—but their responses couldn’t be more different. Jesus denies nothing. He continues to be open about his identity as the Messiah. Peter, on the other hand, denies his association with Jesus and refuses to even speak Jesus’ name. Jesus boldly embraces his identity as the Messiah; Peter fearfully denies his identity as Jesus’ disciple.
While Peter’s fear is completely understandable and natural, fear has not been his usual response. Peter has been the brave, audacious disciple. Peter was the one who had the courage to step out on the water with Jesus. Peter was the one who claimed he would die with Jesus! What has changed for Peter?
Could it be that, after three years of countless conversations and experiences with Jesus, Peter still has the wrong idea of what the Messiah has come to do? Of what God is like? Of what living as part of the Household of God means? When the way of Jesus becomes undeniably clear, Peter’s understanding of God and of himself was shaken. Jesus will not take the path of violence, power, and justice won by the sword. Jesus will be vulnerable, live truth and speak truth to power, lay down his life for his friends, and love his enemies. Jesus has meant every word he has ever said. It’s no wonder that in this pivotal moment, when the way of Christ becomes clear but the future has never been more uncertain, Peter is afraid.
And I get it. I know how it feels to hold tightly to my own understanding of God, of the world, and of myself, especially in those pivotal moments of uncertainty, revelation, and change. How much easier it is to deny the truth about who God is and who I am than to surrender and boldly let my mind and actions be transformed!
Many have said that the Church is currently facing a pivotal moment. As we stand in this space between what has been and what will be, may we be open to what God is revealing to us about who God is and who we are. As unsure and afraid as we may feel in this moment, may we have the courage to be transformed and to be agents of transformation. May we have the audacity to speak and live truth, no matter the cost. And may we boldly claim our identity as daughters of God as we follow in the undeniable way of Jesus.
Dixie Ford is the Associate Pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, AL. Dixie lives in Birmingham with her husband, Scott, and their four kids, Allie, Amber, Thomas, and Anna.
This blog series made possible in part by a gift from Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC.