Read Matthew 26:57-75.
In the Creed, the life that Jesus lived is not mentioned. Jesus is eternally begotten...and then "became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man." And then the next sentence - "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried..." But not a word about who he was, what he taught, what he cared about and valued. The stories! The healings! Nada.
There is a poem familiar to some, perhaps, called Read the Dash. Our journey with Matthew so far has been about "reading the dash" of Jesus' life between his Birth-Death. But now we are transitioning into St. Matthew's Passion Narrative - which in many Episcopal congregations is read aloud each year on Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday in its entirety. These are characters familiar to us, characters we have perhaps even "played" at some point in our lives. Caiaphas the high priest. Peter. The servant-girls who notice Peter's Galilean accent...and others who are soon to come in the days ahead.
It moves fast on Passion Sunday and covers a lot of ground. It almost feels like it happens in real time as things come to a head, like our twenty-four hour news cycle. In this journey I've sometimes felt like there is too much to absorb each day - that if I were writing this journey maybe I'd make it a ninety-day journey. But as we reach the Passion it feels like we are hearing it now in more manageable segments than we usually take on. Today we get the response of the religious leaders to Jesus - indignation. Everything has come to a head and they feel this man is a blasphemer. Across the centuries and religious lines there is nothing like the ire of religious people who are certain God is on their side.
And we get the reaction of Peter - who has been there for the whole "dash" - but who now, when the chips are down, allows fear to trump his courage. At least for now. I do not know the man. I do not know the man. I do not know the man.
There is a line that comes from the prayer at the eighth station in liturgy for "The Way of the Cross" that begins, "Teach your Church, O Lord, to mourn the sins of which it is guilty, and to repent and forsake them..." For me the text before us today gives us a framework for doing just that, for the Church is sometimes guilty of claiming to know too much - too much certitude, too much anger when the prophets in our midst challenge our certitudes. As that old Good Friday hymn asks, "who crucified thee?" And then responds, "I crucified thee..." We are, sometimes, like those who spit upon Jesus, in the name of God.
And on the other end of that same religious spectrum (and maybe just as prevalent and perhaps more common among the religious folks I tend to hang with most often) a failure of nerve, like Peter. A failure to commend the faith that is in us, of denying the Christ when the the going gets tough.