Today is Pentecost and the church celebrates its birthday. How old? To be honest, we are a bit fuzzy on how many candles we need but it is getting close to 2,000. At that kind of age, you don’t need to stop and count every one! I made a start this morning on Tom Wright’s commentary on Galatians and Thessalonians; it turns out that his introduction starts by recalling Pentecost even though, at that point, Paul was still known as Saul and being schooled in zealous, jealous conservation of the Pharisee’s view on God.
I didn’t get very far in because he talked about the transformation of Peter, from someone who denied Jesus in the middle of the night to someone who was about to stand up in the public square and declare that Jesus is Lord. That took me back to the TAK videos and particularly the one featuring the unnamed serving girl that Peter had lied to:
She couldn’t have missed the buzz in Jerusalem – the execution of Jesus, the rumours that he was alive and the amazing tales of the day when the many foreign visitors to the city heard the Galileans declaring the wonders of God in their own languages. I get the impression that Galileans must have been widely regarded as country bumpkins, more likely to be stumbling over their own tongue with a thick dialect than fluent in other languages. What did she think of all that and, given that Peter became a regular face around the temple courts where she worked, how did it play out if she ever met him again?
I can imagine her giving Peter a bit of an earful, when he thought he was just taking a break for some refreshment after standing outside and preaching. “You! You hypocrite! You told me you didn’t know Jesus but now here you are, telling everyone about him. Don’t look so blank – it was that night they arrested him”. I imagine the penny dropping and Peter going swiftly from confusion to shock to supernatural calm. He looks her straight in the eye and says, “You are absolutely right… and I was so, so wrong. Let me tell you about it.”. I imagine him explaining weakness, sin and also that marvellous breakfast on the beach (Jn 21) when Jesus spoke to him.
“He restored me,” says Peter. “Do you want him to restore you?” She might have gone on her way. She might have tried her own bluster and bluff to escape the situation. Or, perhaps, she might have thought of any one of the numerous ways we can deny God and hurt others by our words, actions and inactions, and leaned forward to sob out a muffled “yes!”