Pastoral Letter April 2017

I do not know this man!

Dear Friends,
In introducing this month’s magazine, I wanted to remind you of Simon Peter’s denial of Jesus, when He was on trial in the High Priest’s house, just hours before His death at Calvary. Normally bold and even brash, Peter is scared for his own safety and becomes almost angry in his denial that he was ever with Jesus, or knew Him. We believe that Mark, who was a young man at this time and not one of the disciples, wrote his gospel based on the eyewitness account of Peter, and so it is in Mark 15 that we find the most unflattering (honest and blunt!) version of the exchange in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. We believe it is Peter’s own testimony that he ‘began to curse and swear’, such was his desperation to wriggle out of any connection to this ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.

When I was visiting Dublin in 2015, I came across this striking picture in the National Gallery (and it was one for which, conveniently, photography was allowed). The artist is unknown, but he was a follower of the great artist Caravaggio, and he lived in Rome. The picture is titled “St Peter Den2015-03-03 15.39.50ying Christ” and was painted between 1610-1625. I was very struck by the facial expressions, which are that much clearer when you stand in front of a large canvas like this. Here we see the female servant who is mentioned, and on her face is pure disbelief. It is almost as though she is saying ‘Come on — all the evidence is clear — you are one of Jesus’ disciples!’, while Peter is a picture of sincerity, ‘hand to heart’ and the other raised in protest. While we may not be in danger of our lives, it seems that to admit that you know or follow Jesus in 2017 is just as undesirable as it was for Peter all those years ago, at the first ‘Easter’.

This edition of the ‘Messenger’ is largely given over to three stories of people who are not ashamed to say that they follow Jesus. Some are modern, some are older. I hope that these stories, or ‘testimonies’ will be of interest to you. Perhaps you are reading this ‘magazine’ for the first time, and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Why do people still go to church? Why would anyone want to admit that they were a follower of Jesus? Going back to Peter himself — why would he soon come to the point where he not only stopped denying he knew Jesus, (he repented of it) but boldly told everyone about this man, even though ultimately it would bring him to a martyr’s death? Well, if you come to know ‘this man’ — The Lord Jesus Christ — you will find that the answer is plain. If you know Him, then you will have everlasting life.

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