Read Psalm 22.
As we march onward toward the death of Jesus, I am struck by Peter’s arrogance in his response to Jesus’ prediction that Peter will abandon him. He said, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mt 26:35). He makes a bold proclamation of faith with what seems like little experience of how life can beat you down and bring you to do things you couldn’t imagine. Little experience of how hollow it is to spout proclamations of certitude without the scars of life; scars that remind us there are far less things to be certain about than we first imagined.
Here Peter is, unaware of the train wreck that’s coming for him. The scars he is about to earn. Perhaps, then, arrogance is too strong of a word for Peter. Immaturity might be better.
What matures his faith? Getting hit by the train. Being totally undone by an act that knocks him low and puts him on his knees in a way that even washing Jesus’ feet couldn’t have done.
In my years as a Christian and a pastor I have learned that I gravitate toward the spiritually mature. And I’ve learned those aren’t the ones who can spout the most Bible verses or even those who give the most money or time. It is most often those with a spiritual limp.
Those who have wrestled with God, as Jacob did, and come away with a lasting reminder that God is not one to be trifled with, that the life of loyalty and love is harder than we could have imagined and the the world is no respecter of persons.
We see this limp in the songwriter of Psalm 22 as she cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1) We see this limp in The One who asks for God to pass the cup of suffering and hears in return a deafening silence. The One who goes from calling God “Abba-Father” (Mk 14:36) to crying out “Eli eli, lema sabachthani?!” which is to say “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” (Mt 27:46)
And so we find that maturity comes through suffering.
This is why there is no new name for Jacob without the limp.
No bold faith for Peter without betrayal.
No resurrection without death.
So we must not rush to Sunday but sit with the suffering of Friday, lest we find ourselves, like Peter, making proclamations of certitude without the scars of life.
Jared Byas has been a pastor and professor, is currently a member of Salford Mennonite Church north of Philadelphia, and co-host of the podcast The Bible for Normal People with Peter Enns.