One out of twelve betrayed him.
Eleven out of twelve denied him.
We may think of Peter as the great denier; after all, four out of four gospels give us a building narrative ending with the cock crow.
But I think there is a more universal truth contained in this parable about faithfulness.
In Mark 14, they have eaten dinner and had a conversation about betrayal, and now they have gone out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus said to them, “You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep will go off in all directions. But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.” But Jesus said to him, “I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But Peter insisted, “If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” And they all said the same thing. (Mark 14:27-31, CEB)
But, but, but … they all said the same thing.
In Mark’s gospel, no one gets it right. They all disperse. Even the women who come to the tomb run away, frightened. We needed three more gospels to put the pieces back together, to give people a sense of hope, to tell a story that people want to believe and hold and share. No wonder the early church folk chose more than one!
And no wonder they kept this one.
Because we all say the same thing: we will never leave you, Jesus, we will die for you, Jesus, there is nothing we care about more, Jesus.
We are the eleven out of twelve, constantly. We can only hope to never be the one.
Jesus, for all the times I say I will be there, yet I am not, forgive me.
I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent and using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I also sometimes refer to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.