“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:38-42)
This is where things were when Good Friday came to an end. By late Friday afternoon preparations were being made for Sabbath. And expediency took priority over planning. And grieving was folded into worship of Yahweh. Let us also set aside this scene and look back at some things I had deferred, namely Peter.
It is in John chapter 13, verses 36 to 38 that Jesus foretells Peter’s betrayal of him. The lectionary does not pick up this passage during Holy Week, for whatever reason. Each of the Gospels is pretty consistent in the account.
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
Interestingly, the gospel of John does not chronicle Peter’s reaction to the cock crowing; the other gospel speak of his anguish. There are several streams, it seems to me, to consider in the disciples’ reactions to Jesus arrest, trial, and crucifixion. First I want to say that the gospel of John focuses on Jesus’ Divinity and does not have much narrative on what the disciples did. So we must look to the other gospels. We know from the gospel of Matthew that Judas killed himself when Jesus was sentenced to death. He felt remorse for what he had done and tried to return the money. But his guilt would not allow him peace, so he took his own life. If it were the previous lectionary year, I would say this is a failed attempt at confession,penance, and forgiveness. Would have Jesus forgiven Judas? Is there a sin so great that Jesus our Lord God would not forgive it? I hesitate to say, but I think Judas’ answer to that question would be yes. Let us not, beloved reader, make the same assumption.
And we know that Peter felt guilt and remorse when he denied three times in a short period of time that he was part of the followers of Jesus. However his guilt did not drive him to injure himself. In fact, it inspired to deepen his faith, and strengthen his believe. We know this because of what we read later in the New Testament.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.
But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:1-8)
There is not just a little bit of questioning as to whether it was Simon Peter who wrote I & II Peter. In any case, Peter seems to have taken up a position of leadership in the early Christian church that bespeaks to a maturing and deepening of faith. I like to think that the travail he went through at Jesus’ death forced him to dig deeper into his own soul and spirit. But I suspect we are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Let us look instead at the psalm passage that was written for times of stress and difficulty.
“In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16)
Words, prayers, petitions, and intercessions fervently and sincerely made will give good results. Let us remember that at this in-between time. Selah!