Converge Bible Studies is a series of topical Bible studies based on the Common English Bible. Each title in the series consists of four studies on a common topic or theme. Converge can be used by small groups, classes, or individuals. Primary Scripture passages are included for ease of study, as are questions designed to encourage both personal reflection and group conversation. The topics and Scriptures in Converge come together to transform readers’ relationships with others, themselves, and God.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Converge Bible Studies Our Common Sins
By Dottie Escobedo-Frank
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
MARK 14:27-31, 66-72
27 Jesus said to them, "You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep will go off in all directions. 28 But after I'm raised up, I will go before you to Galilee."
29 Peter said to him, "Even if everyone else stumbles, I won't."
30 But Jesus said to him, "I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
31 But Peter insisted, "If I must die alongside you, I won't deny you." And they all said the same thing.
* * *
66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest's servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, "You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus."
68 But he denied it, saying, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't understand what you're saying." And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.
69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, "This man is one of them." 70 But he denied it again.
A short time later, those standing around again said to Peter, "You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean."
71 But he cursed and swore, "I don't know this man you're talking about." 72 At that very moment, a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered what Jesus told him, "Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down, sobbing.
INSIGHT AND IDEAS
Of course, we think, we wouldn't have done that. In Jesus' lowest hours, we would have remained faithful. I'll never forget when a non-follower friend of mine read this story about Peter. She said, "Man, Peter's on my _____ list! He just ignored his homey in trouble." (Later, when she read more of Peter's life story after the Resurrection, she said that she was forgiving him. Peter was redeeming himself.) While I laughed at her honest reaction to hearing a story for the first time (something that I wish we all could do now and then), she nailed our feelings about Peter's denial.
We, of course, would never treat a friend and or family member in such a way—especially if he had just been arrested and was facing death. We would never wonder whether he actually caused this to happen to himself. We would never blame the victim when he was down. We would never not claim a close personal relationship with a convict. Do you sense my tongue-in-cheek questioning? The truth is, we sure would like to think that we would be better than Peter in this situation; but the reason we connect with him so much is that we know that we're really so much like him. And that realization hurts.
Simon had gone through a life transformation, and part of it was a name change. His Lord called him "Peter" (Petros, meaning rock). Jesus was saying that Simon would now be Peter, faithful, "solid-as-a-rock." I wonder whether Simon laughed inwardly when Jesus renamed him. He knew himself to be a volatile, emotional, speak-before-you-think person. He must have been surprised by Jesus' call-out to faithfulness and by the new person he was becoming.
And that's why this denial hurt so much. He failed in faithfulness. He failed to be strong as a rock when his world was crumbling. He failed to stand up for his beloved friend and teacher.
On occasion, I've heard people talk negatively about professors or preachers I know and love. These detractors are unaware that I look to the ones they're criticizing as mentors. When the bashing begins, something inside me wilts because I can't believe that not everyone sees my mentors as I do. Our faith is tested at these wilting places. It is here that we have a choice—to speak out and stand in our connection; remain silent by changing the conversation; or worse, agree through our snickers and laughter. When we arrive at this decision place, we find out that we aren't always different from Peter.
We must acknowledge, of course, the difficult place Peter was in. Because of association, he too could have been arrested. He knew that they were out to kill Jesus, and Peter was trying to save his own skin. We understand the difficulty of that choice. But from the passage, it seems that Peter didn't even think about his answer; he just quickly and succinctly denied that he knew Jesus. He had a knee-jerk reaction of denial.
Faithful. Jesus had called him a rock. But in this moment, Peter was more like quicksand. He was sinking fast.
First, a woman who worked for the high priest (the leader of the group who wanted to kill Jesus) noticed Peter as he was getting warm by the fire. She eagle-stared him and said, "You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus."
Peter just denied it fervently, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't understand what you're saying." Then he took off into the outside courtyard while a rooster crowed in the background.
The second time, the same woman saw him again, this time proclaiming to the crowd, "This man is one of them."
Peter must've been thinking, Who is this woman and why won't she leave me alone? Then he said again out loud that he didn't know what she was talking about.
The third time, people were standing around; and someone said directly to Peter, "You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean."
This time, Peter showed his best colors by swearing and cursing. And he stated vehemently, "I don't know this man you're talking about."
Peter's temper flared to full height and full-on rage. And right when he was about to explode in anger....
The rooster crowed again.
It crowed so that Peter could remember Jesus' words: "I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
It crowed so that Peter could recall his quick response, "If I must die alongside you, I won't deny you."
And it crowed twice so that Peter could feel the full weight of his denial.
And Peter broke down and bucket-sobbed. The rock crumbled into a sorrowing pit. He cried bucket-tears of remorse for letting himself down. Bucket-tears of love for a friend who had never deserted him. Bucket-tears of a broken-hearted man.
Peter cried out for repentance and help and transformation. He cried to regain his status as the faithful rock. He cried for a restored relationship with Jesus.
Have you ever been unfaithful to your Savior? Have you ever denied Christ Jesus, your Lord?
I know that I have. It is my greatest sin. As a young woman, I became the mother of a baby girl who died at four days of age. I prepared for her death; but when it came, I was stunned nonetheless. I couldn't believe that I would have to lose my child. And in my stunned and listless state, I gave up on God. As I watched my infant daughter's casket being lowered into the ground, I buried God there too. I quit believing. I quit hoping. I quit caring. I existed in a state of unbelief. I found out how lonely it is to be without God.
During this time, I went to church because my husband pestered me to go. I went through my daily routine, alive on the outside but dead on the inside. I finished classes, worked, and ate. But there was little life left in me.
Then one day, a miracle came into our lives in the form of another child. And when Sara was laid in my hands, I experienced God's great love. I suddenly knew that God had never left me. I knew that God had never believed in my unbelief. I knew that God had saved me from myself. It took me years to forgive myself for my unfaithfulness to God. And while today, many years later, I can understand how grief and pain does this to a person, I am still working to be faithful, strong, and a source of hope to others. I understand Peter's tears, because they are mine too.
You may not have had such a dramatic experience of denial. Maybe yours is more about the silence in the face of a crowd that jeers at Jesus. Maybe yours is the experience of pretending you don't go to church, or denying that faith can change things in your life. Maybe your experience is the subtle, constant neglect of the love that was once your lifeline.
I think that Peter's tears gave him his life back. Tears are healing and faithful. They are the mechanism God uses to allow us to enter into the flow of God. In Bible days, and later, in Victorian times, tears were seen as so precious that they were collected in bottles. Psalm 56:8 says,
You yourself have kept track of my misery. Put my tears into your bottle— aren't they on your scroll already?
This Scripture points out that our tears so precious that they are God's collectible items. This tradition carried on into the Victorian times, when a stopper was added to the bottle. Tears of grief were collected and added to as an outward sign of an inward pain. Since pain often comes from the loss of a love, tears are actually an outward sign of an inward love. Paying attention to our tears brings healing, cleanses us of our sins, and reconnects us to the One we love. And Peter was healed of his faithlessness and his denial.
We know that Peter was healed because of his life. He went on to establish churches in Antioch and preached all over the known world. He wrote letters to faith communities. He spread the gospel. People were healed when Peter prayed. Even his shadow brought healing.
We believe that Peter died at the hands of Nero, and tradition has it that he was crucified upside down because he said that he didn't deserve to die the same way his Lord had died. In the end, Peter proclaimed Jesus with his life and in his death. He was the Rock, the faithful one, once again.
And so, from a distance, we see the whole picture. There may be times in our lives when we deny that we know, or that we love, Jesus Christ our Lord. Those times will bring us great pain and sorrow and will cause us to make a choice. The choice is this: Will we continue to live unfaithfully, or will we learn from our common sins and make something beautiful of our mistakes? This choice comes daily. It comes in our decisions about whom to love, where to connect to a church community, how we work, what we say, and when we're silent. The choice, daily made, is still ours.
I have a friend whom I call the Encourager. When I am struggling with something in the church, I call him and explain what's going on; and he listens and gives a little feedback. But mostly, he ends every conversation with "Be encouraged." It's his way of reminding me that God is faithful and that we can be faithful too. This encouragement is really what we need now.
We will cry, but I'm thinking that we can make beauty out of tears. We can turn our common sins into deep understanding of God's grace because Jesus died and rose so that we could know the depth of God's love. This means that you are beloved in God's sight. This means that you are beautiful to the Maker. This means that your truthfulness shines like a light in the darkest room.
I'm thinking that we can take our common sin of denial and turn it into faithful to the end.
1. Why does Jesus tell the disciples that they will leave him? Is he locking them into a course of failure when he gives them this information?
2. How would you respond if you were one of the disciples and Jesus had said this to you?
3. The Greek word translated falter in verse 27 is skandalizo, which is related to the English word scandalize. How are the actions of Jesus' disciples in Mark 14 scandalous?
4. Galilee is mentioned twice, once by Jesus (verse 28) and once by one of the crowd in the outer courtyard (verse 70). What is the significance of Galilee? Is there a connection between the two references?
5. Why, do you think, is Peter so confident that he won't abandon Jesus?
6. What might be going through Peter's mind when he hears the first rooster crow in verse 68? Why doesn't Peter remember what Jesus said before hearing the second rooster crow?
7. Why does Peter decide to save himself? What does this say about our desire to save ourselves?
8. Why is it so easy for twenty-first century readers to judge Peter for denying Jesus?
9. In what ways do we deny Christ today? In what ways do we deny our fellow Christians?
10. How should we handle the grief that we often experience after we're unfaithful to God?CHAPTER 2
SLEEPING THROUGH IMPORTANCE
FAILING TO BE THERE
32 Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. 34 He said to them, "I'm very sad. It's as if I'm dying. Stay here and keep alert." 35 Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. 36 He said, "Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want."
37 He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Couldn't you stay alert for one hour? 38 Stay alert and pray so that you won't give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak."
39 Again, he left them and prayed, repeating the same words. 40 And, again, when he came back, he found them sleeping, for they couldn't keep their eyes open, and they didn't know how to respond to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, "Will you sleep and rest all night? That's enough! The time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up! Let's go! Look, here comes my betrayer."
INSIGHT AND IDEAS
It's really embarrassing when we sleep through important, life-changing, even agonizing moments. It's even embarrassing when we sleep through not-so-important things. It tells our companions that they aren't important, and it takes a while to get over the loud and clear nonverbal message that was given.
Once I slept through a date. My high school sweetheart had taken me to a movie. This was when movies were shown in outdoor theaters, and the car had a speaker attached to the window. It was really a time for the town teenagers to get together, eat hot dogs and popcorn, and party. But inside the car, during a movie whose title I can still remember, I fell sound asleep. At the end of the movie, my date woke me up and pouted all the way home while I apologized. It took about a week of apologies before he forgave me. He was glad to be with me; I was obviously not in the same frame of mind.
I recall one other event when I watched someone sleep through an important conversation. I was a social work student intern and was accompanying a physician intern to give the bad news to a mother that her little child had been abused by someone in the home. Really, really tough news to hear. The physician intern had been up for thirty-something hours and let me know that he was very tired.
We went into the room together to talk with the mother. We were sitting close together in a small room with three small desks crammed in the space. The physician intern began to explain the injuries and went on to tell the frightened mother that these could occur only through abuse ... that her child was being abused by someone. I was watching mom's face, and I saw the devastation cross her eyes as she took it all in.
And then there was silence.
I was still looking at her face, but the silence went on too long; and then mom's expression changed. I looked over at the physician intern. He had his face propped up on his hand and was sound asleep. Right after delivering the bad news, he fell asleep in our presence.
The mom was so shaken up by his words and then by his inattentiveness to her problem, that she began to cry. I shook his arm until he woke up, and he apologized profusely. But the damage was done. He slept through something really important. It made a painful moment even worse.
Jesus needed to get before God and pray; and he chose his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, to go with him. He explained to them that he was in deep sorrow and even felt his body close to death for the weight of his experience. He needed them to stay close by, awake, and alert; and he needed them to take care of him as he faced his hour of pain.
He was so upset that he threw himself on the floor. Have you ever been so distraught that you lay on the bathroom floor, away from everyone else, and just cried out to God? Or have you been alone in the house, face on the ground, groaning out your pain? That's where Jesus was, except the weight of his pain was the knowledge that his death was near. He could even feel it in his body. He cried out to God to save him from this pain if it were possible, at the same time telling his Father that he would still go through this trial if it was God's will. Jesus' spirit went through an agonizing fight against the moment and simple surrender, all at the same time.
He went to call on his friends for help, but they were sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Couldn't you stay alert for one hour? Stay alert and pray so that you won't give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak."
He was saying to Peter to at least pray for himself if he couldn't pray for Jesus. He scolded his inattentive, sleepy friend because he was not present in Jesus' time of need. Jesus went away to pray again, repeating his prayer from before. As we often do, Jesus said the same thing over and over. (Sometimes it's really all we have to say, and we want to make sure we're heard.) When he was done, he reached out again for the support of his friends and found them sleeping. They didn't know what to say to Jesus. They could see agony on his face and lack of peace in his body, but their love wasn't strong enough to stay awake. They were silenced by their own lack of caring.
The ministry of presence is often all we have to give during times of deep grief and sorrow. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that there are no words that can bring comfort or lighten the sorrow. Words are inadequate, trite, and often unintentionally hurtful. But what is remembered is presence—that someone you loved showed up at the awful moments of life. That speaks volumes.
Excerpted from Converge Bible Studies Our Common Sins by Dottie Escobedo-Frank. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAbout the Series,
2: Sleeping Through Importance,
3: Telling Lies,