These stories of redemption even in moments of great pain and doubt are re-assuring. However, the point of Good Friday for me is not to be re-assured, it is to feel deeply uncomfortable. So much of the unattractive side of human nature is on display. There is the cruelty of the soldiers who mocked Jesus and created the crown of thorns they then forced him to wear. There is the cowardice of Pilate, who was prepared to let an innocent man die. There is the duplicity of the Pharisees, who found false witnesses to testify against Jesus in a kangaroo court. In some ways, we are not surprised by these acts. We can justify them somehow. We know that there are bullies who delight in tormenting those who are weaker than themselves, politicians who take the easy way out and those in positions of power who manipulate the truth to get the outcome they desire. We may not approve, but, heh, that’s human nature.
No, the deeply disturbing behaviour for me in the Passion narrative is not any of the characters above, it is Peter. Peter the loyal, hot-headed, passionate man who swears undying commitment and then denies his Lord. Not once, not twice, but three times. I wonder what went on in his head after each time. We know that once he realised what he had done, he wept bitterly. Which comes back to the question “What would I do?” Would I keep on denying that I knew this person that I loved, I followed and I believed to be the Son of God, the Messiah? You see, it is easy to dismiss the ‘pantomime villains’ of the passion, because we hope we will never be like them. Peter reminds me that although I believe that I am committed and faithful, it might not take much for me to turn away from Jesus, to turn away from trust in God. That is a very uncomfortable place to be in. Jesus’ death shows his human frailty, and ours.