“Does anyone know where the Pharisees are?” Someone asked quietly.
Peter said nothing but kept his gaze on the locked door. “I heard they’re preaching against the Master at the temple.” answered Thomas. Many of Jesus’ disciples had holed up in a small, dusty room in Jerusalem to hide, and were asking themselves what they were going to do next. Jesus had been crucified three days ago. Thomas continued, “they’re undoubtedly celebrating now that they’ve-”
But his words were cut off when a pounding at the door jarred everyone to their senses. “They couldn’t have found us already!” someone whispered. But their fears were abated when they heard: “Let me in, it’s John!”
John entered looking pale. “We….we found Judas.” James cracked his knuckles, “Well, where has that back-stabbing traitor been hiding this whole time? I would like to give him a piece of my-”
“No, James, you misunderstand. We found his body. He killed himself. Probably due to the guilt from betraying our Master.” There were several outcries such as:
“Serves him right.”
“How could he? He worked with us and Jesus.”
“He’s worse than the Gentile dogs.”
Peter couldn’t handle it anymore. Without a word, he rose to his feet and burst through the door, leaving the surprised disciples behind. John was the only one who ran after him.
“Peter! Peter, wait!”
Peter had been trying for the past few days to ignore the aching guilt in his chest. How he had promised to die for Jesus, how he had failed to protect him in the garden, how he had even denied knowing his Master three times, and how it had pierced his heart when Jesus had looked at him as the rooster crowed.
Icy shame welled up in him as he ran down the street and wet morning air filled his lungs. A few vendors were setting up their shops, and a group of temple guards watched him suspiciously. Peter didn’t even care as tears welled in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
“Peter, stop!” John had finally caught up with him and clamped a hand around his arm. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” He jerked on Peter’s arm, pulling him into an alleyway, away from the temple guards’ view. He hissed, “After cutting off the high priest servant’s ear like you did, they can easily have you stoned or-”
“Maybe they should!” Peter exclaimed. John stopped tugging.
Peter couldn’t hide the tears of shame that had been plaguing him day and night. He let the story spill about how he had betrayed his Master’s trust and wasn’t willing to tell the truth.
Peter swiped at his stinging eyes with the back of his hand, “I know the Master prophesied that I would deny him at our Passover, but I…I’ll never be able to tell him how sorry I am.”
John finally let go of Peter’s arm. “But don’t you recall what the Master said before that? He quoted the prophet Zechariah, ‘Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’, he meant us. But remember the rest of the passage? ‘Two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire;I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.’
“Don’t you see, Peter? I believe the Master means to test us and we will-” But Peter cut him off. His eyes wide with grief.
“But what if I’m supposed to be included in the group that is to be struck down and perishes? What I did three days ago was unforgivable and I as good as betrayed the Master just like Judas Iscariot.”
Before John could answer, a woman came speeding down the alleyway, her face flushed with excitement. John turned. “Mary Magdalene? What are you-?”
“John, Peter! The tomb, it’s empty!”
Leaving Mary in the city, the two disciples made haste for the tomb with the wet grass brushing at their ankles. John ran ahead of Peter, who began falling behind, the shame in his heart slowing his steps.
“What took you so long?” John panted as he rested outside of the tomb as Peter finally arrived.
“John…what if it’s true? What if he’s risen? What can I say to him? I couldn’t even bear to show my face.”
“Well, I don’t know. Let’s go look.”
The empty, folded grave clothes that met them were both a surprise and a disappointment inside the musty tomb. If someone had stolen the body, they wouldn’t have left them behind. But if it wasn’t stolen, where was the body?
Peter cried out in frustration, “I can’t stand all this uncertainty! If he’s risen, where is he?” He took off again, and this time, John did not follow him.
Peter wound up back in a dark room inside the city, all alone and contemplating his options. Should he turn himself in? Should he be protecting the others? Or maybe he needed to end it the way Judas had. He was so wrapped up in his guilt, he didn’t notice when someone had entered his locked room.
Peter looked up and nearly fainted as he saw Jesus standing before him. His heart froze in fear. “No, please leave me alone! Your ghost has come back to torment me.”
Jesus came closer and placed a scarred hand onto his shoulder. He certainly didn’t feel like a ghost. “Peter, you know it’s me.”
“Then, you truly have risen…” Eyes down, the tears began to flow again as his apology tumbled out. “Master, I’m so sorry, I promised I’d die for you and instead, I became a lying coward. I don’t deserve to be your disciple.”
Peter looked up, expecting a look of condemnation. But instead there was a soft, kind expression on Jesus’ face. “Peter, I still need you to feed my lambs. Don’t you know that your sins have been forgiven?”
John 20:1-9; Luke 22:61; John 18:10; Matthew 26:31-35; Zechariah 13:7-9; 1 Corinthians 15:5
Copyright 2015 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.