There is an intriguing verse in scripture which speaks of a young man who nearly got arrested as he was following Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was dressed only in a linen cloth, and when the Temple Police tried to grab him, he wriggled out of the cloth and ran away naked (Mark 14:51) leaving the cloth behind.
It was in the house of Mary the Mother of John Mark that the early Christians met (Acts 12:12), and it is generally accepted that the young man in the linen cloth was this John Mark. It is also generally accepted that John Mark became a close friend of Simon Peter, and in the early days of the Church, St. Mark’s Gospel was often referred to as the Memoirs of Peter or Peter’s Gospel.
So here we have a very early account of the ministry of Jesus, by a brash young man called Simon Peter, fiercely loyal and yet afraid to admit his own weakness and thus gaining love and respect from Christian disciples ever since.
He is a man of impatience: when Jesus says “follow me”, Peter jumps up and follows without question (Mark 1:18). Yet he is a family man and he does not turn his back on his family obligations. He loves his mother-in-law and when she is ill, brings her to Jesus for healing (Mark 1:30).
Peter likes to know what’s what and whose who, and when Jesus withdraws to a quiet place to pray, Peter goes looking for him, and having found him, says quite querulously “everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:36).
When the gospels list the disciples, Simon Peter is always the first to be named (Mark 8:29), is this because he was a natural leader or because he made the most noise?!
Nevertheless, it is Peter who first has the inkling of who Jesus really is, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). This is confirmed with James and John at the Transfiguration when Peter quite overwhelmed blurts out ‘“Let us make three tabernacles for you, Moses and Elijah…”…they were so frightened they did not know what to say’ (Mark 9:6).
When Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship, Peter says boldly "we have left everything to follow you" (Mark 10:28).
When Jesus is in Gethsemane he warns them that difficult times lay ahead, Peter immediately responds “I will never leave you even if all the rest do" (Mark 14:29).
Peter, James and John did their best to face the coming difficulties by sticking close to Jesus, but they were tired and overwhelmed, and they actually went to sleep while Jesus agonised.
When the Temple Police came, they all fled, except Peter who followed at a distance to see what would happen. To his horror, people in the Temple Courtyard recognised him (Mark 14:67)--“he is one of His men” they said. “I don’t know him” Peter replied. Then the cock crowed and Peter broke down and cried (Mark 14:72).
And so St. Mark’s Gospel comes to an end with Peter in distress—but no, there is still hope and consolation when the faithful woman comes to anoint the body of Jesus.
They found the tombs empty and a young man dressed in white, who said “don’t be alarmed, He has been raised—go and give the message to His disciples including Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see Him just as He told you”.
F. Bernard Dodd
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.