Holy Thursday: "Denial and forgiveness" - Holy Week Devotions

"Peter's denial" by artist Rosana Casco
"Peter's denial" by artist Rosana Casco

Fourth in a series of devotions for Holy Week written by United Methodist pastors.

Scripture: Mark 14:66-72

Artist: Rosana Casco

"Peter's Denial" by Rosana Casco. 

Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.

The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” But he denied it again.

A short time later, those standing around again said to Peter, “You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.”

But he cursed and swore, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” At that very moment, a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered what Jesus told him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down, sobbing.

Devotion

When we talk about Peter’s denial of Jesus, the question that often comes up is “Why did Peter deny Jesus?” The simplest answer always seems to be that Peter was merely fulfilling the prediction that Jesus had pronounced over him at the last supper. Or, to say that Peter lacked faith. Though Peter was an apostle, we must remember that he was human and had human emotions such as fear. Let’s also remember that Peter was dealing with the impending death of his friend and mentor, so he was also dealing with anger and grief. It might be easy to be dismissive of Peter’s denial but we must remember that we might well react in the same way if we are honest with ourselves.

And what about Jesus? Would He be angry at Peter’s denial? Think about this: When Jesus made this prediction, Peter was sitting at the table for the Passover meal and He fed Peter anyway. Perhaps it was this example of grace and mercy that kept Peter going, allowing him to continue the work he had been tasked with even after Jesus died on the cross. Peter’s story does not end at the denial. Peter went on to be forgiven and to be the very foundation of the church. Likewise, our stories do not have to end when we deny Christ through our living. What joy, this wondrous mercy and grace brought! Thanks be to God. 

For reflection

  • How can God redeem my denials of Him? 

Prayer

Father, thank you for stories like Peter’s that remind us so much of ourselves. Jesus, give us strength when doing the bold thing takes a back seat to our fear. Holy Spirit, help us to follow the examples of both Peter and Jesus, in staying the course and in showing others the grace that we want shown to us. Amen. 

The Rev. Jonathan Tullos is the pastor of Salem UMC and Pleasant Hill UMC, in Lucedale, Mississippi. Media contact: Joe Iovino, United Methodist Communications.