Friday, April 02, 2010

Simon Peter's Easter thoughts...

We began to set the food out on the table and take our places. We sang one of the Passover hymns from the Hillel. We remembered Israel in Egypt and the night the Angel of the Lord passed over the firstborn of the Children of Israel. We rejoiced in God who brought us out of Egypt as we recounted the story in answer to the question, "Why is this night different from every other night?"

While we were doing thus Jesus became very troubled. His somberness caught our attention. We became quiet and waited. At last he said, "Very truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." Heads shook as we turned to look at each other. What did he mean? Who was he talking about? I motioned to John who was sitting next to Jesus, to get him to ask Jesus who he was speaking of. I saw John ask. I strained to hear. "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." The hairs on my body stood on end. I had goose bumps. The blood rushed from my head as I saw Jesus pass the piece to Judas. Jesus leaned over and spoke to him and he left. I was stunned. John looked like he had been hit by an escaped bull. Everyone else started murmuring about Judas going out to do some of Jesus bidding. Nobody else seemed to have caught on or heard. I felt disoriented. James must have told a joke. The others beside him were laughing. Everyone but John and Jesus and I resumed eating and talking. I didn't know what to think about this. Had I imagined it? I didn't have a lot of time to muse, though, as at that moment Jesus called for quiet. He picked up one of the round flat Pita breads and he blessed it. Then he broke it - tearing it in pieces and handed it around to us saying: "Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Afterwards in the same manner he took the cup in front of him and he gave thanks and said: "This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." as he passed the cup. We all drank from the cup. It was a very special time.

Very shortly after supper we headed out across the Kidron Valley to the Garden on the Mount of Olives. We were singing hymns along the way but quietly as the night was getting later. While we were walking along, Jesus told us: "You will all become deserters; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." That's when I claimed in my pride and arrogance, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." Jesus said to me, "Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." I don't know why I had to argue with him, what fantasies drove me to think that I was so powerful, so courageous on my own, but I heard myself - I still hear myself - say, vehemently: "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." The rest of them said it with me. We were so sure.

When we arrived at our usual place Jesus indicated that he was going to pray. He said to all of us: "Pray that you may not come into the time of trial. Sit here while I pray." He motioned to James and John and myself to go on further into the garden with him. He was very upset, very anxious, pacing a little as he spoke. "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and keep awake." He went a little further and he threw himself on the ground. I watched him do it as if in slow motion. I heard him ever so faintly but I could just make it out: "Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. If you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet, not my will but yours be done." My emotions had been stretched so much this week and this day that I suddenly felt drowsy and before I knew it I had drifted off to sleep.

The next thing I knew was Jesus standing over me saying: "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray." He went away again and prayed as before. I started to pray myself and again I nodded my head in sleep. Jesus woke us up. We didn't know what to say. I felt ashamed. He went back to praying. We went back to sleeping. At last he came again and he said to us, " are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour is come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."

While Jesus was speaking we could hear the commotion of a crowd coming towards us. There was Judas with a bunch of men carrying clubs and swords and the officers of the temple police and the elders. Judas called out: "Rabbi!" and went up to Jesus and kissed him. The men with clubs laid hold of Jesus to arrest him. That's when everything got a little crazy. I drew the sword I had hidden away and sliced off the right ear of the high priest's slave. Jesus told me to put my sword away. "Am I not to drink the cup that the father has given me?" That's when they began to bind Jesus with cords and the menace of the crowd grew. All of us began to slip away as quickly as we could. I withdrew far enough for safety and to watch. As they began to move away, I followed to see where they were taking Jesus. This really happened.

Sure enough. They took Jesus to the high priest's house. It looked like there was quite a crowd assembled. All the lights were on inside and every few moments there was coming and going from the inside. I managed to get in to the courtyard and I went and sat, as nonchalantly as I could, with the guards as they warmed themselves around the fire. I tried to be inconspicuous. I just listened to everything. One of the servant girls began to stare at me and came over and she said, "You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth." I looked at her and shook my head and said, "I do not know or understand what you are talking about." She went away and I breathed again. I walked out to the forecourt to stay out of the way. The cock crowed.

After a while another servant-girl came along and she began to tell the rest standing around that: "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." I swore an oath and said, "I do not know the man." That seemed to shut her up. A few moments later one of those bystanders came up to me and said, "Certainly you are one of them, for your accent betrays you. You are a Galilean." That did it! I began to curse and I swore an oath that I did not know this man! As I finished speaking the cock crowed again.

The Lord turned and looked at me. Then I remembered. I remembered what Jesus had said- that before the cock crowed twice I would deny him three times. I broke. Great shuddering heaves seized me and the tears blinded me as I tore out of the courtyard and down the narrow streets. Running. Running I do not know where. Sobbing. Heaving. Shamed to the core. Bitterly with bile in my throat heaving great pangs of agony as I ran.

I had no concept of time. I was wandering around in a daze in the lower city. I realized that I didn't know what was happening. I was so caught up in my own grief that I forgot all about Jesus and what he must be going through. I had to find out. I started back up towards the High Priest's house. When I got there someone told me that they had taken him to Pilate, the Roman governor. That didn't sound good.

Nearing the Governor's palace I heard all kinds of noise and shouting. The crowd was really worked up. I heard the shouts: "Crucify him! Crucify him!" As I jostled through the crowd I could see Jesus standing beside the governor. He looked awful. A crown of thorns on his head. Blood on his face. Pale like he was in shock. He seemed to sway as he stood there. Pilate raised his hands. The crowd quieted a little. "All right. I give you my decision. Barrabas goes free. This 'King of the Jews, this Jesus, is to be crucified." The crowd cheered. My heart sank.

It was then that I got really angry at God. Why, oh why have you forsaken him? Why? Where are you God? This is supposed to be your Son, the Messiah. Why does he have to die? These thoughts and others swirled around inside. I didn't even notice that the crowd seemed to be moving at first. Then I heard the harsh shouts of the Roman soldiers making a way through the crowds. Pressed up against my neighbours I watched as I saw the wood of a cross come towards me. Then I saw my Lord slumped under its weight not six feet from me. He looked up at me and all my anger at God dissipated. The last time I saw those eyes I had denied him myself. Now those eyes, glazed with pain, were looking into my soul. Why was it him and not me? I still didn't understand. I was scared and I, too, was in shock. Everything was happening so fast. My Lord was going to die.

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild & Charlene E. Fairchild 1998 - 2006

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~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~