Saturday, March 22, 2008

Every year around this time, I always think about what life must have been like for Peter, the disciple, on the day before Easter.
You remember Peter, right? A fisherman by trade, he dropped all his stuff one day to follow a crazy radical named Jesus around through the wilderness for a few years. He quickly established himself as one of Jesus' best and most loyal disciples, with Jesus even calling him the rock upon which the church would be established, "and the gates of Hell shall not overcome it."
(Note: I have recently learned that this verse may have been lost in translation, that Jesus may have been referring to Himself in that verse, and not Peter. But quibbling about minor points isn't important at the moment.)
Peter also established himself as someone who was, to say the very least, guided by impulse. Even during his first meeting with Jesus, he reacted a little hastily, begging Jesus to leave him because "I am a sinful man." Peter even pulled Jesus aside at one point during their travels to give him a tongue-lashing -- because his new Master was talking about his impending torture and death -- prompting Jesus to call him "Satan" and telling him to go away.
Peter's impulses show themselves in the story of Jesus' final night in His earthly body -- first, Peter loudly and vehemently declares he's prepared to follow Jesus to the death, "though all may fall away." Then, when the soldiers come to arrest the Savior -- in some versions of the story, anyway -- Peter produced a sword -- don't forget, Jesus had advised His disciples to procure swords for themselves as they neared Jerusalem -- and sliced off a man's ear. He was ready, at that moment, anyway, to die with Jesus.
So imagine his shock to see what happened after that. Jesus healed the soldier's ear, went quietly away with the armed guards, to be questioned by the local authorities. You can almost see the puzzlement on the disciples' faces? Um, what happened to the revolution? We were about to overthrow the government ... weren't we?
The other 11, it seems, were content to disappear as quickly as possible and read about what happened in the next day's newspaper. Not Peter. Instead, he followed Jesus and the soldiers at a distance, to see what would happen next (I mean, surely God was about to do something HUGE here, right?).
When he was discovered, however, Peter's instincts took over again -- he swore, as vehemently as he had during other times in Jesus' ministry, that he didn't know Jesus, had never met the man.
Ever say something you wish you hadn't?
For Peter, the guilt over his denial of his Savior -- and His ensuing torture and death -- was nearly too much for him to bear. We don't know exactly what he did for the next couple days, but odds are he didn't go to Six Flags.
So here we are, Easter Saturday, with Peter: alone, terrified, wracked with guilt and feeling empty inside.

The great thing about it, for him and for us? Sunday came. And Sunday's coming again. Hallelujah.


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