Mark 14:71

But he said to them, “I swear that I do not know the man you are talking about! May God punish me if I am lying!”


o so angry
at getting caught
not getting our way
there is no stopping
a fume and fuss

when fantasy shards
of deep dreamtime
come suddenly apart
they writhe and contort
explosive in their pain


The curse or punishment Peter is claiming, is against himself—“May I be accursed.”

The Greek ἀναθεματίζειν (anathematizein, to devote to destruction) is an extreme statement that is not only meant to put one literally in danger if not true but to be emotionally compelling, so one is seen as sincere. Peter has pulled out a big stick, probably said in a big voice.

First, Peter claims to be willing to take whatever punishment is meted out for lying. He may well have figured out that, given G*D’s mercy, this would be small potatoes compared with what he would have to live with as a betrayer.

Second, Peter calls upon G*D as a witness to the veracity of his response.

These uses of G*D are familiar responses in every age and system, whether family, religious institution, or governing politics.

This is the third denial of Peter. Denial by denial, feeling more and more trapped and moving further away from Jesus whom he followed before this night and after Jesus’ arrest, Peter escalated his responses from avoidance to vehemence.

At this point we may remember the many people who were healed by Jesus and asked to keep silence about their healing and Jesus’ part in it. They were not able to stay silent but started and continued to blab it wherever they were and to whoever was around. Contrast this with Peter who, when directly asked about his relationship with Jesus, was adamant in denying any connection with Jesus.

Readers may also return to Gethsemane to wonder what prayer Peter might have prayed that would have kept him from getting into the pickle of his present circumstance. Does Mark’s story of Jesus require a lonely wilderness valley at the cross as well as after baptism and during ministry?

Is there anything Peter could have done to express his solidarity with Jesus, not left Jesus on his own and connected Jesus on the cross with Peter as well as with a darkened Creati*n and absent G*D?

Mark 14:70

But Peter again denied it.

Soon afterward the bystanders again said to him, “You certainly are one of them; why you are a Galilean!”


put off
put off
put off

no matter how long
another opportunity
to not put off

put on
put on
put on

again and again
even enemies offer
revealed insight

put away
put away
put away

every excuse
to cover past
missed honor

put here
put here
put here

outworn strategies
polished fabrications
a simple yes


Now it is more than one servant who is asking about Peter. There is no more room or time—true colors must be shown.

JANT92 uses an interesting phrase in discussing these verses about Peter.

… Mark ironically conveys that Peter’s “self-acquittal” is occurring simultaneously with Jesus’ conviction.

Peter and the disciples had been taught the way of deaconing. Associated with this is the problematic phrase, “self-denial”. For a significant, long-term, purpose we are willing to put ourself in service on behalf of another or some larger group of others. The dramatic image is that of choosing crucifixion if that comes to be the consequence of being a deaconing angel in a wilderness.

Such self-denial needs to be very careful for the temptation will be to unnecessarily call a crucifixion down upon one’s self to be a witnessing martyr. This short-cut is actually a “self-acquittal” that expects a privileged entrance to whatever fantasy of “heaven” one has come up with. There is no virtue in self-acquittal.

Peter began this series of denials by saying he didn’t understand the question about knowing Jesus. Now he moves on to deny that he knows the other disciples. This is the way of denial—one more denial is always needed. “Self-acquittal”, or denial of one’s self, never seems to get to the bottom of the questions being asked.

This is not the self-denial that Jesus spoke about in terms of serving one another for it only serves as a false defense of self.

Announcement of a new book

There is no posting today as I am out-of-town to speak at a District UMW gathering on “Sacred Spaces: Encounters with G*D and Neighb*r”.

This gives an opportunity to announce that I have just self-published a translation of Mark that is available on Amazon—Slow-Reading the Gospel of Mark.

The format invites a reflection on some of the smaller connective words in Mark’s telling his Jesus story. The text pushes back at our desire to scan and rely on a familiar story. Hopefully, there will be a new opening to this old story as a Reader faces an awkward style not smoothed with familiar language choices.

Should you take a look at it, I would appreciate your posting a Review on Amazon (negative as well as positive, so we don’t get too far away from reality). Reviews help me as an author to see how to improve and assist potential readers to dive in or move on.

Thanks for your traveling with me through these long months—with a couple more to go.

Wesley

Mark 14:69

and there the maidservant, on seeing him, began to say again to the bystanders, “This is one of them!”


a nobody wandered by
collecting remainders
of other lives
living off their life

a found kite string
wrapped round
a tattered life
brings dignity

a call reminds
another call
to restring a net
olly olly oxen free

come from hiding
return home
claim it gladly
an interconnected web


One way the servant could have recognized Peter was if she had been part of a crowd appreciating the teaching and healing of Jesus. Peter could have quietly said, “Yes, but please keep that quiet for now. I simply need to be as close as I can be after losing my courage for a moment.”

This scene is becoming more intense. The first recognition was done at an appropriate level, face-to-face. When Peter avoided that first identification, we find the servant now speaking to others who happened to be present.

In attempting to avoid putting himself at risk, the circle of those who will be looking at Peter increase.

This negative escalation seems familiar to anyone who has had a dark-night-of-the-soul. Things just keep getting worse and we don’t know what to do about it. We are stuck sitting around a cold fire that can no longer warm us and there are an unknown number of walls between where we are and where we think we need to be but aren’t capable of going.

This is a place to review Franz Kafka’s parable, Before the Law. We come seeking how to live and find a blockage on the way. For whatever reason, we turn a mole-hill into a mountain that cannot be removed to the sea. We spin and spin, losing more and more agency. Our fears and inadequacies strike at the most inopportune time. Whatever made a fisherman think his utopian dream would actually come to pass? We are still waiting beside an open door, one of the best descriptions of hell there is.

Even if we made It past the first wall, the second is higher and thicker and better guarded. This is the reality of denial: there is an ever increasing pressure to repeat it again and again until it becomes our truth. This is the disciple’s unclean spirit: a promise-breaker becomes our self-identity.

Mark 14:68

But Peter denied it. “I do not know or understand what you mean,” he replied. Then he went out into the porch;


so caught up
in misery
I’m blind
to sisters
from the crowd

though recognizing me
that gift beyond gifts
is not returned
and blocks my seeing
what I’ve come to

window closed
mirror shattered
only denial rings out
to identify
a once-changed heart

without sight
we can’t even hear
a raucous rooster
indefatigably offering
a new day’s presence


Peter’s denial is not as outright as it might seem. The Greek ἀρνέομαι (arneomai, disregard interest, deny) here means “I couldn’t care less.” There is a disowning of interest, a distancing from the matter at hand.

Peter proceeds to double down on his dismissal of the testimony against him with nearly identical statements. This intentional lack of identification adds to the other false witness statements inside the show-trial as Peter positions himself slightly farther away from Jesus.

Shifting locations is not as dramatic as the inclusion of a public erasure of himself from the company of those who were with Nazarene Jesus, now being betrayed by false statements unto death both within and outside the hastily gathered “court”. Even more than the running away and then following at a distance, this refusal to witness on the edge of the action is the larger betrayal. This is also the place Readers usually find themselves. It is this not being faithful in small ways that leads to not being faithful in critical ways. This is a failure in leadership that religious, as well as state, leaders all too easily justify as allowing some later good.

When there are several versions of a text, translators depend on their choice of text to translate to assist them in transforming one language into another.

While the majority of ancient manuscripts have a crowing rooster at the end of this verse, it is not needed for the narrative and it is not supported by Matthew, Luke, or John. Check your favorite translation to see whether or not a rooster is present in this verse. I can’t speak to the choice of some translations to include it here. My own translation omits it.

Mark 14:67

and, seeing Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him, and exclaimed, “Why, you were with Jesus, the Nazarene!”


folks warmed by light
can’t help but glow
much less disguise
any dis-ease
momentarily blocking
their bravest self

Clarence class angels
still see both
waves and particles
strangely scattered
yet patterned
no matter what

strategically diving
from bridges
bluntly confronting
hidden truths
helpers of light
beacon home


No one knows why this was decided to be a verse break between the servant’s arrival and seeing Peter. The crux of this verse is the second part.

This servant did more than just see Peter. She looked closely. The Greek is connected to the way Jesus looked at someone seeking eternal life but not being up to it because of their wealth (10:21). This was a searching look, an examining look.

Added to this connection, it is important for us to examine seemingly insignificant words such as “with”. Anderson266 notes:

Mark uses the word “with” (meta) to mark the shift in Jesus’ fellowship from its seeming cohesion to its fracturing. Although the Twelve were commissioned to be “with” Jesus (meta, 3:14), the narrative later describes Judas as “one of the twelve” who bring “with [meta] him” a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders (14:43). Likewise, when the high priest’s servant says to Peter, “You also were with [meta] him [Jesus]” (14:67), Peter denies it.

“With” is a partnership word. When “withness” is lost there is great sadness.

Peter has run away from being “with” Jesus and has sat “with” Jesus’ guards.

If Peter can’t speak his own truth, it will still come forward by a third party. This will be paralleled when Jesus dies and a centurion claims Jesus as “a son of a god”. In both these cases the one who names the situation is unexpected. In this particular, it is notably a woman who stands outside the dominant patriarchy of the culture and Jesus’ own Twelve disciples mirroring the Hebrew tribes.

Parenthetically, Mark tells no birth story. For Mark, Jesus is from Nazareth. This was noted at his baptism and here outside his trial.

Mark 14:66

While Peter was in the courtyard down below, one of the high priest’s maidservants came up;


little people
see what crowds
miss
as an emperor’s parade
passes by

through façades
beyond latest memes
under the radar
where lives
shine bright

teas leaves are read
palms wave fortunes
augury lives
where person
meets person


While Jesus is facing a show-trial and is being beaten, tortured, Peter is still sitting contemplating light. He may have been doing so while the guards he was sitting with were summoned to their task.

With his thoughts miles away, a woman draws near to Peter. We can remember other women drawing near to Jesus—a woman seeking her healing from 12 years of bleeding, a Syrophoenician woman appealing for her daughter’s healing, a woman bringing a flask of ointment as an anointing to death.

The patriarchy of that time and this would likely have overlooked her for the very fact of her gender. This social context adds to Peter’s distracted thoughts about betrayal and his continuing to sit at a dwindling fire.

Structurally, we are at another Markan sandwich which puts this scene with Peter right between two false trials. On either side are false witnesses and here, in the middle, there is no witnessing at all, only denial. As a Reader remembers previous times Mark has used the same formula, they are invited to consider how this plays against both the trial before it and the trial afterward.

If this is an action-oriented parable instead of a spoken one, which of Mark’s previous parables would you go back to as a reference point. Is Peter a seed sown on a path, in stony ground, among weeds?

This also brings consideration of the accusers of Jesus and of Peter. Jesus rates the High Priest and the Roman prefect of Judea. Peter gets a maid.

Before the presence of the prestigious, Jesus can be silent and can affirm who he is. Before the presence of the lowly, Peter will capitulate into betrayal upon betrayal. Except for delusions of grandeur, we find ourselves tripped up by ordinary circumstances and ordinary people.

Mark 14:65

Some of those present began to spit at him, and to blindfold his eyes, and strike him, saying, as they did so, “Now play the prophet!” and even the police officers received him with blows.


an ephphatha spit
from tongue to tongue
opens life to life

from tongue to face
is spit impossible tasks
by those not listening

should word of a better tomorrow
enter their presence today
they would still hold to yesterday

there is no prophecy
exempt from present fear
and its reactive response


To be condemned is to be exiled and to be exiled places one in the position of being a non-person. This makes it easy to further dehumanize. Spitting, hooding, striking, mocking all add up to, “You no longer matter.”

This is more than bullying because there is no possible countervailing force to force a bully to back off. This is fair game for as long as anyone wants to continue hurting. This is a denial of a Neighb*r.

Dismissal and beating are what can be expected. A being diminished past the point of being a nobody can be expected. Jesus has affirmed these expectations for quite some time and now he is tortured in the Guantanamo of his day.

The guards here are probably the same as those Peter sat with. By the property of contagion, Peter can be said to beat Jesus, not just betray him. This is a striking proposition that heightens the deep sorrow embedded in this scene. False witness has become true pain. These sticks-and-stones do hurt; they add injury to insult.

Prophets are often not well received. When it is evident that their message is not being heard, we know the line is coming, “Let those with ears, hear….” We can see that ears have closed with the dismissal of Jesus, not just as Messiah, Anointed, from the Blessed One, or adam’s Image (Human One), but as a prophet representing a G*D represented in all of those titles.

The game being played with a blindfolded Jesus is for him to guess who hit him. “Prophesy” taunts Jesus, asking him to play the game. Given his previous silence, while being accused, we can also see Jesus not responding to this game which results in more hits—each one harder than the last.

Mark 14:64

“You heard his blasphemy? What is your verdict?” They all condemned him, declaring that he deserved death.


to be tied to power
is to rise by action
confirming its right
and fall inactive
in its absence

such mutual propping up
takes so much energy
there is no noticing
ground has sagged
away from under us

with a bothered head
asking how this happened
we hurriedly fill the hole
with the nearest body
not our own

our life is well-worth
the death of one or many
the worth of our life
is deserving of their’s
thus resolving all questions


The question, “What do you think?” is still a good one for a Reader to attend to.

You’ve heard a question about being the Messiah (the Anointed) and the Son of the Blessed One (G*D). You’ve also heard a response about a Human One.

We are back to a question of identity. Who do I say I am? Who do you say I am?

These titles seem to mean different things to Caiaphas and to Jesus. A critical difference is one of power.

Before going further, the imagery of being a Child of G*D has a long and valued heritage in the Hebrew story. It is not preloaded as a source of blasphemy. It is something everyone can claim. Here, though, it has been turned into a point of division rather than solidarity.

For Caiaphas and the Council, Messiah is a title of victory and, thus, power. This is the same perspective that Peter had when he denied a human-oriented Messiah (adam’s Image) instead of a doctrinaire, G*D-centered “Son of G*D”.

Sabin1145points to Jesus seeing things differently:

The Markan Jesus uses all of these terms in a different way: he is anointed in respect to death; he is God’s son in respect to obedience. He is ordinary ben ’adam who by undergoing death in the manner of God’s “beloved son” is raised up to God’s glory.

Here is a key “He said—He said” conflict. How do you read it?

This is part of the need to continue reading Mark with the understanding that it will be re-written through how we read such details.

Mark 14:63

At this the high priest tore his vestments. “Why do we want any more witnesses?” he exclaimed.


most devastating
an affirmation
not matching my own

the safe predictability
taken years to attain
tumbles apart to the ground

a cosmic scream
erupts from a crack
so long covered over

no more no more
off with their head
to satisfy my own

carefully positioned mirrors
shatter like dominoes falling
an image of identity exhausted


Tearing clothes is not easy. In keeping with the portrayal of a show trial, a wonderment does occur—did the high priest come prepared with a robe that had tear-away sleeves and a strategic cut to initiate a long tear?

The drama of tearing clothes precludes any response to the question other than, “No! We need no more witnesses!”

Even though there is biblical precedent for tearing clothes in the presence of “blasphemy” (2 Kings 18:37–19:1), this comes in a line within Mark that tracks from tearing open the sky, tearing these symbolic clothes, and the tearing of the Temple curtain. Each of these rendings opens an expansive and expanding blessing.

Aichele23 puts the difference between the rending of robes by King Hezekiah and Caiaphas concisely: “here in judgment, but originally a gesture of grief”. When we lose our grief, our compassion, we lose our ability to judge.

As always with scripture, there is more than one place in scripture to look for insight about a specific passage. In addition to 2 Kings, we could look at Leviticus 21:10 where the instructions about priests include this word about high priests: “The high priest…must not pull their hair in grief or tear their clothes.” They are to be removed from the usual responses for their role as intermediary between the people and G*D would be demeaned if they only had usual emotions.

It is this intermediary relationship that may have triggered the extreme of tearing clothing. Jesus’ response to the question of being “Son of the Blessed” is a role of the chief priest. The desire of James and John shows up again—who will be chief, first, prominent?