Psalm 130 (NRSV)
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
John 13:36-38 (NRSV)
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.”
Psalm 130 suggests a believer, a person of faith in God, but mired in fear of the dangers around him (or her). He prays to an Old Testament God who protects the people of Israel, but can violently strike down iniquitous enemies. He knows that he has sinned, but hopes God will have mercy. His posture is that of a supplicant without certainty, basing his hopes on history. God protects his people.
John 13 paints a different picture of Peter’s action in the lead up to Good Friday. He is a good man and has been with Jesus for years. I have always loved Peter. I picture him as a burly, blustery man who is completely captivated by Jesus and feels he would “take a sword” for him. He wants to follow and protect Jesus. But the bluster is gone after Jesus tells Peter he cannot go with him and even asserts Peter will deny him. Think how that must have felt. We might wonder if Peter even heard the rest of Jesus’s reply – “…but you will follow afterward.” Yet that is the most hopeful and loving promise for every follower of Jesus. Following Jesus is not easy and we are not perfect. But unlike the supplicant of the Psalm, we have confidence in Jesus’ word to a follower who fails.
LPC is full of Peters. It has been blessed with long-time followers of Jesus, good people who have been faithful, but know they will sometimes slip. Jesus understands that a slip does not define a person. Rather, it is the whole direction of our lives. We are ashamed at our failures, but we come back and follow Jesus with the assurance that, like his promise to Peter, in the end we will be with him.
Lord Jesus, let me be more like Peter. Let me acknowledge my failures, but give me the courage to move past my shame. Let me continue to follow you no matter how difficult. I believe you want me to live my whole life as you have shown us – with goodness and love and care for others.