Friday, March 25, 2011


While listening to the St John Passion of Arvo Pärt today, something struck me that hadn’t hit me before: the words of Jesus and Peter are surely deliberately set in opposition to one another.

When Jesus asks whom the soldiers seek in the Garden, and they say, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He replies, “I am he.” In the Latin of Pärt’s setting this is Ego sum (and in the original Greek, ego eimi).

When the attendants in the High Priest’s courtyard ask Peter if he too is a disciple, he responds “I am not.” In the Latin, again, this is Non sum (and in the original Greek, ouk eimi).

Can there be a bigger contrast enclosed in this one word difference? Could the Evangelist possibly have done this by accident? (Hint: the answer to both questions is “No.”)

It’s a stunning reminder that we are to proclaim our faith with boldness, with clarity, with enthusiasm, with utter conviction. Jesus knows who He is: and we do, too—don’t we?

If it is true that Jesus came to make all things new (Rev 21:5), it is our hearts (and our courage) that also need to be made new. How bold are we in our public (not private) commitment to the Lord? Are we among those who say (with Jesus) “It’s me!”? Or are we more like Peter and say “Not me!”? It’s the power of a single word—a single YES, a single (in Latin and Greek, anyway) “I do”…

The world desperately needs public witness of the kind that Isaiah (Is 42) spoke—not crying out, not making our voices heard, yet as a presence which though it does not compel yet cannot be ignored.

Which “word” will we use tomorrow: “I am he,” or “I am not he”?

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