I will Lay Down My Life for You

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a moment. Events are set in motion; emotions run high. Before realizing what you have said, you have committed to something beyond your immediate comprehension. Such is the case of Simon Peter. And such is the risk of all who choose to follow Christ.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus reclines at table and tells Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter responds with fervor, telling the Lord that he will lay down his life for him. And Jesus answers, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

Place yourself in Peter’s shoes. Imagine his perspective. Only a few days ago, Jesus said that you were going to Jerusalem and that he would be handed over and ultimately killed. Whether you know the full impact of these next few days or not, you sense that this may be the climax of the mission. Every action of the last three years of your life has led you here. At this point, there is no turning back. And so, you offer yourself for the sake of your master, teacher and friend.

Jesus does not thank you for your support, nor does he gently caution you from such radical commitment. In fact, he breaks your heart: as much as you say you love me, you will run in my greatest hour of need. Is there a response to that shock? How do you tell the man who has been right about everything to this point that he is wrong about you?

Peter is not alone. Ultimately, this is the great tragedy we all face. None of us wants to deny or abandon Jesus. In fact, this entire season has been a journey into the desert with him. We have recommitted ourselves to him, and he has sustained us. The fear is in not knowing what happens to our commitment next week.

This Holy Week, as we approach the holiest celebration of our spiritual lives, we are going to be caught up in the moment. The last several weeks have been leading us to Jerusalem. Now, we look forward to the Lord’s Supper, the high court, the cross, and the tomb. We may feel as Peter felt and may even commit ourselves as Peter did. There is no doubt that we are as sincere in our convictions either.

The great difference between Peter and us is timing. Without knowing the crucifixion to come, Peter ran away. Yet, we know the crucifixion and ultimately the resurrection to come. The pain will pass, and we will celebrate our salvation. We will endure through the Triduum and enjoy the Paschal Mystery.

Our challenge will be to maintain our commitment after the Resurrection. After this week, will we remember the renewed commitments we have made to follow Christ? Will we allow God to make a permanent change in our lives or will we simply run and deny Jesus’ call? This week is only the renewal of our discipleship, not its conclusion.