But he denied it, saying, "I do not know or understand what you are talking about." - Mark 14:68
Denial is a powerful thing. Peter is in the courtyard as Jesus goes before the authorities. It's clear that Jesus is in big trouble and Peter wants to be there to keep an eye on what happens. He meant to go inconspicuously, but then people began to recognize him as one of Jesus' companions. Haven't I seen you before? Aren't you one of Jesus' closest followers? Peter gets cold feet about speaking the truth. If he says yes, maybe this is a hostile crowd and they might hurt him. Or perhaps he, too, would be called up in front of the authorities. Or who knows, maybe he'd be nailed up on a cross as he feared Jesus would be. So in distress, Peter says no. No, I don't know the guy. And further, he says, "I do not know or understand what you are talking about."
Considering the fight or flight mode Peter seemed to be in, maybe in that moment he really didn't know or understand what the questioner was saying. Denial is a powerful thing. I think most of us can understand what Peter was feeling - was fearing. We know how scary it is to take a stand up when there are risks involved, how hard it is to be honest when the truth might not be well received, or how much easier it is to dismiss a tricky situation by simply saying "I don't know." Sometimes, it's easier to be in denial than admit the truth to yourself. Denial is a powerful thing.
Jesus asks us to follow him to the cross, and we know what a tall order that is. Peter - even Peter - found it hard to follow in Jesus' footsteps at times. So if you've been having trouble facing up to something you know you need to face, or if you've been avoiding something you know you need to say or do, or, hey, if you've just been having trouble sticking with your Lenten disciplines this year, Peter would have understood! We all know the power of denial and its power over us.
That's why it's so very important to lean into Christ and trust in God. If Peter's weakness got the best of him at that crucial moment, it can happen to any of us. Our strength is not enough in this life. God's strength is what we need to be a disciple. As we move into the depths of the passion this Sunday and during Holy Week, let's remember that with God by our side, there's no need to hide from the hard stuff.