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The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” ~ John 18:17

On this Good Friday, I invite us to reflect on the imperfections of Peter. This is the disciple who Jesus calls his rock, and who, in time, becomes “the rock” on which Jesus’ church is built. But John’s Gospel doesn’t present Peter in a particularly positive light. Some of Jesus’ last words to Peter are a chastisement: “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Famously, Peter devotedly follows Jesus as he is bound and led away but also saves his own skin by denying three times that he ever knew Jesus. At the moment of Jesus’ arrest, “the rock” that Peter resembles isn’t granite—a rock that you can build on. Rather, he is more like porous pumice, rough around the edges and caving in all too easily.

Why does John’s Gospel include these embarrassing details about Peter, who becomes perhaps the most important disciple? I see these details as a sign of hope.

Through Peter’s fallibility, the story involves all of us. Christianity is not only for the heroic, the unspeakably wise or the extremely brave. It is also a faith for people who overreact, who get it wrong quite often and who run away. On Good Friday, Jesus is arrested and led away to be crucified, and Peter utterly fails to live up to what he had previously promised to do. This is a source of embarrassment, yes, and yet it’s exactly this full and complicated humanity that Jesus redeems in the days to come.

Today’s readings

Think of your life and spiritual journey. When have you, like Peter, failed to do what you promised?

When have you, like Peter, been a rock for others?

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