My friends, welcome to Holy Week!
When I set out on January 1st with this act of devotion, I had no plan other than to reflect on Mark until I ran out of Mark to reflect upon. We are a week away from Easter, and I realize that my last Markan devotion will be on Easter Sunday! Resurrection on Resurrection Day! I am dumbstruck and humbled!
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:66-72
At the end of Peter’s threefold denial, he begins to curse. Our translation says he curses himself and swears that he does not know Jesus. The Greek translated here as “curse on himself” is ἀναθεματίζειν (anathematizein) which translates to a curse of destruction on their statement. It’s where we get the English word anathema, which in our dictionary means intensely disliked, loathed, or vigorously denounced. Peter doesn’t condemn himself until the cock crows that final time, as seen by his breakdown and weeping.
Peter really, really, really wanted to stay out of trouble by denying Jesus. These denials are coming from the guy who said “I will not” in Mark 14:29. And this, my friends, is why I believe Peter is Mark’s source material. Nobody else would be this hard on Peter; only Peter could be this hard on himself. But he gets over it and becomes the “Great Fisherman” of the early church who eventually finds his own way to the cross!
Oh Amazing Grace,
How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.