Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 26:34)
Every person has social, political, religious, and cultural identities by birth. Because of the identity of the vulnerable people, they are always distanced and discriminated against by society, treating them with inequity.
Peter, Simon bar Jonah, one of the disciples of Jesus, was a Galilean fisherman. That was his identity. Fishing was an essential part of the Galilean economy controlled by Roman Aristocrats. Hence the peasants felt the burden of rigid hierarchical taxation as they were robbed in the name of various types of tax. This burden on the fisherman was even more intense, which made them rebel against the Empire. Jesus resided in Capernaum during most of his ministry and greatly impacted the fishermen’s lives. While they were seeking a kingly Messiah to liberate them from the stronghold of the Roman Empire, they found Jesus, who was meek yet mighty. Matthew 26:31-35 and 69-75 consist of prophecies of Jesus concerning the disciples and Peter. Jesus foresaw the weak, yet so courageous, Peter, that he would deny and desert him before the third cock crows. Though Peter emphatically said that he would not forsake, not even under the threat of death. Jesus told Peter, “Truly I tell you, before the night is over, you will deny me, not once but thrice”. The cock crowing in Matthew is to be understood as referring to a Roman division of the night watch. This thought of the threefold denial of Jesus seemed unimaginable to Peter. His bold promise was based on his ego and not on the supreme power of God. Hence, a maid’s suspicion was enough to undo his faith. His charge was a simple association with Jesus as an accomplice of a Galilean. Peter was present in the core events of Jesus’s ministry but now denies his association with Jesus.
Here Peter’s denial was also self-denial. In denying Jesus, Peter was shattered. He was afraid of the Roman empire as he was a victim of resisting the manipulating abilities of the empire. So he couldn’t face them. The empire today also does the same. It exploits vulnerable and weaker minorities socially, politically, and economically. It makes the rich more prosperous and the poor even poorer. It victimises the vulnerable by denying them their rights. The multiple attempts to achieve their rights not only left the communities broken and also powerless to stand against the empire.
The Church, once a denied community but now stronger in Christ, should extend its solidarity to the denied and broken communities. As the power of resurrected Christ transformed peter, a coward turned courageous and became the leader of the apostles. As communities of Christ, we need to come under this transformative experience to stand firm against the empire. As a walking Church, every individual with the in-dwelling spirit reflects Christ in showing solidarity, extending love to the vulnerable, and helping them stand firm.
Moses Dayan Kodali, Church of South India
Parent God, the author of salvation, help us to be in solidarity with the broken and vulnerable. Empower us with Christ’s love to identify ourselves with the church and reflect your love for the vulnerable. Though we are broken, help us to look at the cross, which fills us with the courage to stand against the Empire. Amen!