I never thought it would end like this.
To start with, it seemed so easy to follow him…the most natural thing in the world.
On that day beside the lake, everything else just faded into the background. Friends, my father’s boat, the day’s catch…they might as well not have been there.
There was just Jesus…and me.
He said the word and we dropped everything. To be honest, I think we’d have gone with him even if he hadn’t invited us. We needed to be with him. He had that sort of effect, you see.
Love? Yes, I suppose I did love him. Certainly I would have trusted him to the ends of the world and beyond….
But I didn’t always understand him.
Do you have to understand the things you love? I don’t think you do….I went with him first because of the way he was. I maybe stayed because of his stories. Wonderful stories, they were. While he was speaking, you felt as if you were on the edge of understanding the sort of deep reality someone like me can barely dream of.
He attracted so many, and he held them too.
You couldn’t help listening. Men, women, children,-even the winds and the waves were spell- bound when he spoke.
It was as if he was opening the shutters of our minds, just a tiny crack, and outside was the most perfect spring day. I longed to get out there and experience it for myself, but somehow…
There were the obvious, spectacular things too.
The healings,- even my wife’s mum seemed to regain a spring in her step, to have a new light in her eyes and a gentleness in her voice after he’d been with her. And all those lame men walking, and the dumb shouting out his praises.
It was really awesome.
Gradually it dawned on me just who he might be.
I felt silly even thinking it to start with. After all, we’ve been waiting for the Messiah since the time of King David, and a good few would-be saviours had fallen along the way. Why should Jesus be any different just because he was MY Lord? After all, as my mum would tell you, I’ve a bit of a habit of thinking that geese are swans,- but somehow, the more time I spent with him, the more likely it seemed.
So eventually I came out with it.
I’m a direct kind of bloke,-no messing.I’m happiest dealing solid answers to solid questions.
And it was a direct question that triggered me that day.
He turned to me, as we were going along, and just asked
“Who do you think I am?”
The words were out of my mouth before I’d had a chance to think. Not a moment to hedge my bets
“You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
I heard myself speaking, and part of me was thinking,
“Oh well done Simon! You’ve done it again. Opened your big mouth and put your foot in it. He’ll not like that. After all, he’s close to God:anyone can see that. He’ll be angry at my blasphemy”
But I was in for a surprise, wasn’t I?
He seemed really pleased.
“You’ve got it. At last! God’s blessing on you, Simon. You recognise me for who I really am,- you’ve been listening to my heavenly Father, clearly. Let me tell you who YOU really are too…
You’re Peter…a rock….someone I can rely on…the rock on which I’m going to build my church.
The church will be like you, too, strong, energetic, - nothing will stand in its way. Not even the gates of hell”
You’ll imagine, I felt pretty good then.
It wasn’t always that way, though. Even when I did understand what was going on, I didn’t always enjoy it.
Like the day when I realised we were stuck with one another, come what may.
There’d been some pretty heavy theology going on, and most of the crowds had had enough. They’d come to see signs and wonders, to hear enthralling parables, but that day Jesus seemd to be talking in code. Small wonder that many turn round, baffled and disappointed, and headed for home. It was all too difficult. Who could blame them? I watched rather wistfully as the last family disappeared over the horizon, back to a nice, safe normal life. I didn’t talk about my fishing much, but I did miss it. It's in the blood, after all.
He must have picked that up, because he came out with another awkward question,- no point in trying to talk your way out of it.
“Do you also wish to go away?”
Oh, I did wish to go away, but at the same time, I knew it was hopeless. I’d never be satisfied with life at home again. It seemed too small, too limited. Jesus had made me grow out of it, however much I wished he hadn’t. So I said the only thing I could
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
That was it.
Only one route ahead, and it looked like hard going.
I felt weary just thinking about it, but I knew I couldn’t turn off the main track.
I had no control over events, was caught up in them, committed despite myself.
Things were beginning to get a bit scary by then. Jesus was saying too much, upsetting the wrong people, and I knew I’d been clocked as one of his mates. There was probably a big fat file on a desk somewhere with all my details,and my wife, my kids….
Not a good thought.
But there wasn’t really any alternative.
One way street. No u turns.
No idea where we were heading though….
I didn’t expect it to end like this.
Even last night, at supper, I just didn’t get it.
All that foot washing. I’m not demonstrative. That made me feel so uncomfortable, Jesus down on his knees in front of me….
I wanted to swap places, till he said this was something else really important.
Another one of those clever stories that meant more than it seemed to…but this time we were acting it out ourselves.
Being washed was the way we were going to be part of Jesus’s work, so then naturally I wanted more than just a quick dab of my feet. I was in this up to the neck,so I wanted him to wash me from head to toe as well. But he wouldn’t.
And he said we’d all give up on him…very soon.
We were sure that had to be wrong. We’d been through so much together by then. We were rock solid, all of us. A team.
Oh, why was he ALWAYS right?
He said I’d disown him…pretend we’d never met.
I fought it, every step of the way.
Fought sleep in that cold garden, where the shadows were full of menace.
Did my best to defend him…till he told me not.
That was hard. For once, I could do something for him,but that was wrong too. Nasty piece of work that Malchus…it wouldn’t have done him any harm to have gone through life not hearing what others really thought about him. But Jesus went on being Jesus. Couldn’t resist the impulse to heal, even then.
And, apparently, I can’t resist the impulse to say the wrong thing….to say things I regret immediately afterwards. That’s how I’ve always been..
And this morning, in those cold hours before dawn when just keeping alive feels like one effort too many, I did just that.
Denied all knowledge of the most important person in my life…the one I care about more than life itself.
And now he’s gone.
They’re going to kill him. And I'll never have the chance to say sorry, to tell him how much he means to me, to really share my hopes and dreams.
I don’t know how I’ll bear it.
He’s gone. And I’m left.
To whom shall I go now? What price eternal life???
Lord, I'm another
who's quick to proclaim
How much I love you.
Yet I too deny you often
when I meet you on my doorstep.
Help me to live my words of love
Give me rock-like integrity
and then use me in the building of your Kingdom.