St Peter and the Betrayal

What must it have been like for Peter, the Chief of the Apostles, on that night Christ was betrayed? As Mark presents it, Jesus had recently, extravagantly, been anointed for his burial. Then, in Mark’s presentation, Judas agrees to betray Jesus. Peter, seemingly, walks through this unaware.

What must it have been like for Peter, on that night of the Last Supper? Christ has given them his Body and Blood, and in sorrow predicts the abandonment of them all. Peter cannot believe this of himself. Even if all fall away, I will not, he boasts. It must have stung when Christ predicted that not once, nor twice, but three times this would-be stalwart would deny him.

What must it have been like for Peter, on that night in the Garden, chosen especially by Christ to come away and to pray with his Master? How could he not have heard the heartbreak in his Savior’s voice, “My soul is troubled unto death”? How could he have not heard his Lord’s vehement cries to God? But he fell asleep. Couldn’t he have stood up, at attention, even for an hour, in the middle of the night? No, he would watch with Jesus, but he must first be comfortable. It must have shamed him a little when Christ woke him the first time. Did he then sit a little straighter? And what must he have felt when Christ woke them the final time, “My betrayer comes”? Did he think of his recent failures to pray with Jesus, to keep watch? Did he think of Christ’s prediction of his triple denial?

What must it have been like for Peter, on that night when the men sought to lay hands on his Lord? Did he thrill at the flow of blood from Malchus’ ear? Did he feel some pride that he alone of the Apostles dared to fight to the death for Christ? Isn’t that what he’d just promised his Lord, “Even if I must die, I will not betray you”?

What must it have been like for Peter, on that night in the courtyard, when the wisp of a servant girl looked at him suspiciously? Did his heart race? Did sweat dot his brow? Did his gaze become furtive? Did he who had moments ago nearly chopped off a man’s head, slump his shoulders and attempt to appear invisible? And did his heart fail him when that rooster crowed the first time? Did he remember? Did he think he’d promised to die rather than deny Christ? And did he try to shush her, when she turned to her companions and call attention to his association with the Man on trial within? When he began to curse and deny yet a third time, did it even occur to him he was fulfilling Christ’s prediction.

What must it have been like for Peter, on that night when the rooster crowed the third time, and when his Savior caught his eye, and his entire world came crashing down? Did the bitter sorrow fill his heart and mind, did the tears and spittle and mucus cover his face, did frenzy overtake him, the grief and the guilt racking him? Did he sigh and scream? Did he prostrate himself in the dust? Did he say again and again and again, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”? Did he despair of forgiveness, of hope?

And what must it have been like to be so weighted down with the guilt, the shame, the despair, the agony of having denied his Lord, and yet, to have found, somewhere, somehow, within him that longing for Christ, and the courage, yes, the courage, to bring that longing, and nothing but that longing, to his Lord, and there to wait, at least in his heart, for Christ to look his way again?

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