How do we deny Jesus? Because to look at this passage truthfully means we have to wrestle with our own ways in which we deny Jesus. There's a fairly new advertisement in which they tell you no one settles for less, everything has to be bigger or more of it in order for us to be satisfied. This denies the gospel story itself that Jesus gave to those who followed, because when we look at this passage of Peter's denial we have to look at what Jesus says about denying and losing.
See the real problem for us is the more part. More numbers, bigger churches, more programs, more of anything and everything to attract more in numbers. Now that's all well and good, but when we do only that we deny who Jesus is to us, to our community, to those who attend. More does not actually fix problems, but distracts us from the true message of who we are and whose we are.
See Jesus gives the disciples no easy pill to swallow. Instead of following me to the glory of Israel, instead of following me for the crowds which seem to get bigger and bigger, instead of following me because you think of great things for you in my kingdom there is death to face, death and destruction and failure. Not more but less because even the crowds turn against Jesus. That is all Peter hears. Loser with a big L.
Jesus goes even further and says anyone who loses their life for me will gain it. Now what is this supposed to mean? One good early scholar named Paul said it was in losing our old life of sin and coming to new life in Christ. That is certainly one way of explaining it. I want us to think of another.
One year there was an Episcopal News Service reporter who wrote about a conference they had attended in Haiti. Now this conference was way before the earthquake happened. It was centered on finding solutions to Haiti's ever challenging problems. They discussed improved infrastructure and then a problem with that would come up or fixing deforestation and a problem would come up or fixing the water supply and they would hit another obstacle. All around it was discoraging and disheartening. Later that day they made a trip to a special hospital for newborns who were going to die. Families could drop the babies off here and have no reprecussion for doing so because all these infants were dying. The sister showed the reporter how to rock with the baby and give it some comfort, some human touch before it died.
Later the same evening the reporter couldn't sleep. They got up, dressed and walked back to this hospital. It had rained, the potholes in the road were filled with water, they didn't know if the road was safe to walk in the dark and yet somehow they made it through and for the night they rocked dying babies. They said "maybe this was the only way to fix Haiti".
See sometimes our perfect dreams have to die. Our biggest, best, strongest Jesus is revealed when we wrestle with the very things that deny who he is. Sometimes that means quite literally losing our life in order to gain it back. How do you deny Jesus?