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Stations of the Cross



Denial By Michael O'Donnell

Listen to the Audio version of Station 4

Peter denies jesus

Luke 22:54-62

And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Text Reflection:


Simon Peter was one of the most earnest of Jesus’ disciples. He is close beside his Master as Jesus tells him, “Satan demands to have you that he might sift you like wheat.”


Despite his eagerness and piety, Peter denied Jesus three times before daybreak. And somehow, this tragic experience ultimately transformed Peter into the great leader of the early Church.

Art reflection

Denial by Michael O'Donnell


Of the Passion events, this story of Peter denying Jesus is perhaps the most overdone. And this was the most difficult for me to capture without the familiar motifs of the sunrise, the rooster, the look Jesus gave Peter, the people gathered around the fire.

I worked this image several times, layering one impression after another. It still doesn't feel right, and that's some of the point. I finally surrendered to that truth. The moment itself has so much tension, so much that is unsettled and unsure. It is a jarring event, and it increases in disorientation. I tried to capture that with the disjointed imagery.


The lower left of the image holds the memory of walking on water. Above it is the color of mud, evoking the blind eyes Jesus made to see. Stained glass in the middle is covered up, allowing faint impressions of color and light. We often can't see what we are because we do not always understand ourselves.Underneath the whole thing is the copper of the Brazen Altar of the Tabernacle. The whole image is washed from top to bottom. I'll leave the viewer to interpret this.

This is the last moment Peter has with Jesus before the Resurrection. I've heard stories of people who had an argument with a loved one and then the loved one died without the chance to reconcile. The look from Jesus was filled with compassion, I have no doubt. I also know the human mind, and no amount of reassurance in that moment could have assuaged Peter in his torment against himself.

  • What do you notice?

  • What thoughts or feelings does it stir?

  • What does this reveal to you about the passion of Jesus?

  • How does this image connect to your own suffering or the suffering of others?



Imagine you are Peter denying your association with Jesus when the rooster crows. When Jesus turns and looks directly into your eyes, what expression marks his face? Is it rage? Is it pain? Is it compassion? Is it something else?


Take a few moments to notice the image of Jesus that you have in mind. Ask God to reveal what is true about his gaze toward you.



When Peter became aware of his weakness, he went out and wept bitterly. This was “the turning”. From this point onward, Peter would be a new man.


Can you recall a time in your life when you have felt a great sifting, a temptation that consumed you or a loss of faith? Is this something you’re walking through now?


Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. . . . And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." - I Peter 5


These words are attributed to Peter 30 years after his denial. Is there anything in your heart that requires a turning - a weeping, a humbling? What anxieties or suffering do you need to cast before God now?



All Powerful and Eternal God, for proclaiming the truth, your Son, Jesus Christ, is condemned to death by crucifixion.  Stir up your love in our hearts so that we might be ever faithful to all that You have told us, and fear nothing more than the loss of your friendship through sin.  Amen.

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