“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)
And what must have been in Peter’s heart at this? To him who had betrayed Christ, the Lord himself had called by name, inviting Peter to join him in Galilee.
But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:12)
Did his heart race ahead of him? Did he hope to see the Lord at the tomb, just as the women had? Did he rehearse in his mind what he would say to his Lord and Master? Did the words of the parable come to mind: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” But he did not see the Lord there. Not yet.
Later, when he went to Galilee, what longing was in his heart? How did he imagine it would go when he saw the Lord? Did the tears still come, unbidden? Did the stabbing still assault his heart as he remembered his denials punctuated by cockcrow?
Why did he go fishing? Was the waiting in silence too much? Was a distraction needed from the relentless assault his memory accomplished on his conscience? Did he wonder why the Lord was tarrying? Did doubts began to fill his heart that maybe the Lord hadn’t referred to him by name? Did he begin to think that the Lord would appear to the other disciples and not to him?
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)
Did his heart leap within him when he heard John say, “It is the Lord”? What did he think he would accomplish, casting himself into the sea? When the Galilean waters closed briefly over his head, was he again stricken with the memory of his failure of faith and his desperate plea to Christ to save him? Or perhaps his casting himself into the sea was itself a plea for salvation? Or was his longing for the Lord so great that he could not abide the delay dragging a netful of fish would cause, and wanted to swim straight for Jesus?
How did he feel when Christ bid them all, “Come and eat”? Did he feel shame? Did he dare look his Savior in the eye? Did he sit apart so that when his Lord addressed him, he had to draw near him?
Did the Lord’s triple naming strike his heart like a mallet? He who had thrice denied the Lord’s name, was now thrice called by name by his Lord. Did the grief he felt at his Lord’s questionings unbind the shame and guilt and remorse, so that when the tears rose again to his eyes, it felt like a cleansing shower? Did he surrender at last to his Lord’s searching gaze, that it might be seen there in the depths of his heart all the cowardice and fear and self-loathing and remorse, and, yes, the love, the deep, deep love he felt for his Lord and God? Did his new final calling feel not like a grievous end, or a just punishment, but, rather, like a sweet grace that he might at last with his final act, be like Jesus?
And as the sun set on that Galilean day, did the Lord call him, once again, his new name: Kepha?
[See previously: St Peter and the Betrayal]