Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake." Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times."
- John 13:36-38
Today's reading, for Good Friday, is a very short one, just a few verses. For those in the West commemorating the day of Jesus' earthly death, let us consider how they apply to this day. Most of the Eastern churches will commemorate this day several weeks hence. But to think on these verses is important for both Good Friday and also the Lenten journey.
Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." My study bible tells us of today's reading that "Jesus is saying, 'You cannot die with Me now, but you shall later.' This is a prediction of Peter's martyrdom."
Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake." Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times." Jesus predicts Peter's denial before a servant girl during the time of Christ's trial before the Sanhedrin. We hear Peter's bold pronouncement of his intention. The thing with Simon Peter is, we know he is sincere. But he constantly teaches us that "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." For this reason, we need Christ's spirit, the help that is ever-present with us.
In the person of Simon Peter, we see the great transformation that the Spirit will bring. In Tuesday's reading, Jesus told us, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but it if dies, it produces much grain." On the day we commemorate as Good Friday, Jesus will give up His life, in the words of our Evangelist, John, "for the life of the world." But the great benefits to so many will be the sending of the Spirit, given to each of us, poured out upon the world. We will see its effects on Simon Peter perhaps most profoundly.
In today's lectionary reading is also included some verses from Peter's First Epistle, written long after Jesus' death on the Cross: "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven -- things which angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:10-12). Peter ties in the work of the Spirit with the Spirit of Christ at work in the prophets, and the gospel preached by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. My study bible says that "even the angels desire to deepen their vision both of the uncreated glory and of what God has in store for creation. The angels beheld and worshiped Christ in His divine nature; what is new and amazing to them is His human nature." What we read in St. Peter is the incredible revelation and work of the Spirit as he was transformed from the one who swore his life and yet denied Christ three times before morning, to the great Apostle who wrote the Epistle, above. The promise of Christ's death on the Cross is precisely that: the salvation of all of us, just as in the transformation we witness through Scripture and tradition that happened in St. Peter. Eventually he would be martyred and die for His Lord, for all of us.
But there is also the notion of time involved in all of this. We note in St. Peter's letter that he states that the prophets foresaw, through the Spirit of Christ, what was to come, and so much of Old Testament Scripture testifies to Christ and to His life and salvation. St. Peter himself swore he was ready to lay his life down for Jesus, and yet there were three denials before the rooster crowed. God's Spirit works in God's time, not our time, not according to our wishes, but according to the fullness of dispensation, according to what is best for the fullness of the Gospel as it comes to us and is given to all of us. So today, let us consider the events in our lives, what we would desire, the things we may fervently believe, and God's time. That is, what is truly needed at what time. The prophets foresaw by the Spirit of Christ, and yet Peter is not ready for the heroic death he proclaims in service to his Lord. But that time would come when it was the right time, after Peter's great transformation into the leader and apostle he was truly to become. Let us consider this death on the Cross, of the One who laid down His life so that all of us could be saved in the fullness of the Spirit. In that gift, as Peter's letter suggests, is also His Gospel -- the Gospel of the One who loved even His apostle who would deny Him three times during the trial by night. He sees who we may be in the fullness of His time and of His Spirit, in His love. Peter asks, "Lord, where are You going?" It is the Spirit that will bring him the fullness of the Way, in the time of God's choosing.