Faith and Fickle People

”Peter said vehemently . . . ‘I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same” (Mark 14:31)

Crowds can be fickle. You can see it in professional sports when yesterday’s hero becomes today’s goat. This is nothing new. In the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, two citizens lament that the Roman mob who once cheered Pompey are now cheering his rival, Julius Caesar, who vanquished Pompey to consolidate his power. The crowd quickly transferred their loyalties from the loser to the winner, and celebrate the victor’s arrival in Rome. They’re fickle.

In a similar way, the crowd in Jerusalem was fickle at the time of Jesus’ death. His entry into Jerusalem was an occasion of great celebration and praise, and people shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). But it is not long before the crowd in Jerusalem has made a dramatic shift. After Jesus is arrested and brought before Pilate, the crowds are given the opportunity to ask mercy for Jesus. But they scream for his blood: “Crucify him!”

The people in the crowd are not the only ones who prove to be fickle. Jesus’ closest disciples swear their unwavering loyalty to him shortly before his arrest. Peter and the others promised, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31). As Jesus predicted, they all became deserters. The disciples scatter when Jesus is arrested. Peter even denies Jesus three times before the cock crows twice. Like the crowd in Jerusalem, they prove to be fickle. The disciples’ loyalty wavers when they face a time of real crisis in their faith. They were as fickle as the crowd.

The bad news is the stunning inconsistency between the disciples’ claims of loyalty and their behavior. The bad news is that they proved to be fickle when the situation was severe. The good news is that desertion was not the end of the story — for them, or for us. Forgiveness by God’s grace has been at the heart of Christian belief from the earliest days. This was a lesson of experience, and not just the result of abstract speculation. By forgiveness, the disciples who scattered will be the disciples who ultimately share the faith that we claim today. Like them, we can know God’s forgiveness, even when we’ve been fickle.

Look it Up

See “Now let us all with one accord” (Hymn 146, verse 4), attributed to Gregory the Great: “Remember, Lord, though frail we be, in your own image were we made; help us, lest in anxiety, we cause your Name to be betrayed.”

Think About It

When have we proven true to the faith we uphold, and when have we proven fickle? Have we been deserters in the face of a crisis? Have we accepted forgiveness? How may our actions reflect more fully the love of Christ?


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