We, like Peter, have denied Christ
Peter is the New Testament version of Jacob. More than any other people in Scripture, Jacob and Peter represent God’s people. We sympathize with them because they are boldly human. Both Jacob and Peter were seriously flawed people, but their one redeeming characteristic was how they clung to God. In their flaws, we can see ourselves, but in their cleaving to God we see the people we long to be.
Yet, Jacob and Peter represent God’s people in a more direct way. Jacob was literally the father of his nation. The twelve tribes of Israel found their unity by tracing back their ancestry to their common father Jacob. From Jacob, the nation got its name Israel. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel in the famous passage where Jacob wrestled with the angel. At first glance, this story seems odd and insignificant. Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau from whom he was forced to flee after cheating Esau out of his father’s blessing. Alone and fearing the worst, an angel comes to him in the midst of a sleepless night and they wrestle. As dawn is breaking, the angel wishing to leave finally dislocates Jacob’s hip, but Jacob will still not let go until the angel blesses him. The angel blessed him and changed his name to Israel. Once we understand that this story is not only about Jacob himself but about the nation he will represent will can see its significance. God will not have an easy relationship with his people and thus Israel is a fitting name for this stiff necked people. With respect to his moral behavior, there is not much good to say about Jacob (or his later descendants), but his one redeeming factor was his refusal to let go of God.
Peter is the New Testament equivalent of Jacob. Both Peter and Jacob were the leaders of the Twelve. Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and Peter was the leader of the twelve disciples. Like Jacob, Peter is a morally flawed character. He is impetuous and bold, but when the situation gets difficult his courage melts away. Peter’s defining moment was his denial of Jesus shortly after he had sworn to die for his Christ. All the Gospels compare the betrayal of Judas with the denial of Peter. They are the New Testament version of the original sin. For the Christian, nothing is worse than the denial and betrayal of Christ. Yet, the sin of his abandonment of Jesus at the Cross is redeemed by the Resurrection. From the udder depth of failure, Jesus raises Peter to the greatest height of leadership by his forgiveness of Peter. What was the only redeeming characteristic of Peter which differentiated him from Judas? Peter clung to Jesus. Peter loved Jesus and believed he was indeed the Lord and Christ.
Here is the essence of the Christian life both personal and public. Here is our way foreword. We like Peter have publicly rejected Christ. We cling to him privately. Yet, when we are asked whether we follow Him in our public life (in politics, business and education), we regularly deny Him. Should we be surprised if Christ should abandon our nation and hand us over the “gods of this world” so that we might reap what we have sown? Yet, through His Resurrection and His Lordship, we have the opportunity for redemption. If we acknowledge that we have abandoned Christ and repent, Jesus will forgive us. Our thankfulness and Love of Christ will lead us to forgive not only our brothers and sisters in Christ, but even our enemies. Our private understanding of our faith has blinded us from our public denial of Jesus. We share in Peter’s greatest sin: the public denial of Jesus at the cross. This no trivial matter that we can gloss over. Jesus did not gloss over Peter’s denial. He confronted Peter and transformed him into the head of the Church. Jesus leads by example and we must follow him. We must confront our fellow believers with the fact that we have denied that Jesus is King in our public life. We have bowed down to the idols our world and are now ensnared in the consequences. We must repent and publicly acknowledge that Jesus is King. Our love for Jesus and the forgiveness He has given us must move us to forgive our fellow Catholics and Protestants. Those of the “stronger” faith must forgive the “weaker” for who are we to judge? Christ is more than able to make the “weaker” to stand for he has forgiven me of publicly abandoning Him.