Sweaty bodies pressed him in on all sides as he squeezed through the crowds to take a front row at the trial. Wiping sweat from the sides of his chin and pushing back at the crowd, he finally found a spot devoid of people, just a few persons chit-chatting by a fireplace.
‘You’re one of His followers!’
On a normal day, he would smile at those words, it was a privilege to be close to the superstar leader who healed the sick, taught like no one else ever did, and commanded huge crowds of followers. But today was different, there was nothing normal about this evening.
In a futile attempt to hide his face, he bent his head awkwardly to the side and replied, ‘No, I am not’. The heat in that corner of the room suddenly became unbearable, he had to move.
‘Is this not one of His followers?’
He turned to find the men pointing at him. Fear gripped his heart, imaginations of ripped skin and an open show of shame seized his mind and goose bumps poured all over him. If these people tell the crowd that he was the teacher’s associate, what had befallen the teacher would befall him too. ‘No! You’re mistaken, I have never seen Him!” They let him be and continued watching the drama unfolding before them.
Relieved, he found a secluded spot in the room, attempting to hide completely to avoid any further recognition.
Time lapsed and no one else recognized him, feeling forgotten and safe to feel the pain of his leader, he tucked a strand of hair behind his ears and sighed. This wasn’t just a nightmare, it was happening. Unbelief settled on his temple, squeezing them into ridges. The arrest of his leader had happened so suddenly that he didn’t have time to think things through.
Earlier that night, he had cut off a guard’s ear, ready to lead the team to fight back. But his leader healed the man and de-escalated the situation. Now here he was, his teacher, bleeding from wounds inflicted on him, struggling to keep his eyes open because of the saliva dripping down his face, probably stinking already. Peter heaved a sigh and shook his head. What now? What happens next?
The sky just outside the hall’s window was brightening; an hour had gone by since he had been called out by someone. Relief was just settling in when his greatest fear happened again. This time, the speaker wasn’t guessing or asking a question, he was very sure about Peter.
‘Truly! This man was with Him, this man is a Galilean!’
Curious faces now looked at him, eyebrows were raised and he could feel their anger slowly redirecting at him. He had to act fast, speak fast.
‘Guy! I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ His reply was convincing, so convincing the attention shifted away from him as quickly as it had shifted to him.
A cock crowed from somewhere outside the hall, but loud enough for Peter to hear. Loud enough for his leader to hear also. Amidst the slaps and struggle to stand still, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Their eyes locked in the seconds that followed. He knew. Peter could tell that he knew.
His leader’s fixed gaze at him jolted his memory, it reminded him that he had predicted this denial. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and soaked his palms. When his leader had said, ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me thrice’, he had laughed it off. There was nothing that would make him disassociate from his leader. Nothing.
He began to shiver, cold crawled on his skin, mirroring what shame was doing in his heart. He stepped out of the hall and found a private space to weep. Head bowed, shoulders fallen, feeling defeated, he sobbed bitterly.
At the start of the new week, four days after the night of the arrest, Peter and the other followers woke up to strange news. The women had gone to the tomb where their leader was buried, to carry out the ritual for the dead and were now back with the news too good to be true.
‘The man told us Jesus was no longer dead. That He has risen’.
Questions were raised, opinions shared and noise erupted. Suddenly the room they had been hiding in became noisy.
‘He sent a message to you, to you Peter. He called you by name,’ Mary Magdalene said.
She waited for Peter to turn to her before continuing. ‘He instructed me to tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before them into Galilee, there they’ll see Him just as He had said’.
Two things happened in that instant. Memory flashes, Peter recalled that he had spoken of meeting them in Galilee. The second memory was dark and hollow, his leader’s eyes on him immediately after his third denial. He pressed his lips together and sighed. What now?
As they waited for their leader to show up at the agreed place, Peter suggested that they go fishing. With each throw of the net, he feared what was coming. Will the teacher tell others what he had done? Will He discuss how closely his actions resembled that of Judas? Judas was once one of them, a very important part of the 12-men group. He held the money bag. It was Judas who had sneaked up on the Teacher and sold Him out to be arrested and killed.
Their fishing was futile. All efforts to catch fish proved abortive. The net came back empty, as empty as Peter was feeling.
‘Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you’ll find’, His leader’s voice rang from behind them. Joy threatened to shatter their hearts at the sight of Him. He was really here, in the flesh! But Peter was absent-minded and seemed to have missed what had happened.
A fellow nudged him and said, ‘Peter, the Leader is here!’ Peter immediately wrapped his coat around himself, he had been naked all the while, and he dived into the water for the catch. He knew his leader too well to doubt. The net was now too filled to be carried alone, others helped him up.
Later that night, as they dined on roasted fish and bread, the Leader asked Peter a question, asked it thrice, and dished out an instruction to him. Peter did ask a question in return, and the Leader answered him. The night was almost about Peter alone. And no mention of what he had done the night of the arrest. No hint of the past, just a glimpse of what would happen in his future, and an assignment to stand in for the Leader, in the Leader’s voice, to ‘feed His sheep’.
The Leader called him out of the group of dining men, just the way He had mentioned him in His invitation sent through Mary Magdalene. He could sense what the Leader was doing, He was reassuring Peter that his place wasn’t taken, that his denial didn’t dent his calling. ‘What’s your business if I want those other followers to live forever? Your business is to follow Me.’ The leader was responding to Peter’s question about what His plans were for another fellow.
‘Mind your business. Mind your assignment’. At a time when the Leader could have discussed his denial of Him, He chose instead to give Peter a timeless word of advice. The past was past. It was a secret for two.
From my book; DADDY LOVES LIKE ABBA. This chapter is titled “A Secret For Two”. Every chapter has one of these stories about Abba’s love as displayed in scripture