Where was Simon Peter on Good Friday?
I have no idea where the “senior statesman” of Jesus Christ’s apostles spent that day. But the Bible gives us a pretty good idea where he wasn’t. Peter isn’t among those mentioned at the foot of the cross, watching Jesus suffer and die. John was there. Some of the women, too. But not Peter.
So, what happened to the man who had assured Jesus, “I will never desert you,” and, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you”?
Matthew 26:33-35 (NRSV)
Mere hours after that brash declaration, Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter’s first impulse when the mob swarmed in was to swing his sword in his master’s defense. His display of bravado totally failed to rescue Jesus. What’s more, Jesus put a stop to it and even healed a fellow whose ear Peter had sliced off. Peter stood helpless as Jesus was bound and dragged away.
Peter followed at a distance. While Jesus was questioned by the authorities, he stood with a group of people warming themselves around a fire outside. I suspect that no amount of heat could have chased away the chill that settled into Peter’s heart.
Then, the betrayal.
One person, then another, and another accused Peter of being a follower of Jesus. Peter vehemently denied them all. Then Peter recalled how Jesus had predicted his betrayal. Jesus had even foreseen that Peter would deny him three times. Peter broke down and ran, weeping with shame, into the anonymous darkness.
Imagine Peter sobbing in his hiding place that night, overwhelmed by guilt, shame, and fear. He must have replayed his cowardly betrayal over and over in his mind. The shame was multiplied by his having crowed to Jesus in front of his fellow apostles that HE wouldn’t fall away, even if all of THEM did!
I wonder if Peter told himself that, wait a minute, he’d had good reason to be afraid! Those soldiers meant business, and the Jewish leaders were out for Jesus’ blood. Jesus knew that. They’d had words over it before. You can’t protect someone who refuses to be protected. Why did Jesus always have to squelch Peter’s efforts to save his neck, and embarrass him with reprimands besides? Why shouldn’t Peter be smarter, and save himself at least?
Imagine fresh guilt sweeping over Peter for even thinking such thoughts.
Did he sink at last into exhausted sleep? Or did his emotional turmoil keep him awake until dawn?
The new day brought Peter’s worst fears into being. Jesus, tortured and mocked. Forced up the road to Golgotha, bleeding and falling. Crucified. Taunted. Pierced with a spear. Taken down from the cross, dead.
Did Peter witness those events? Was he too overwhelmed to face any of it? Did he stay holed up for fear of being arrested too, perhaps straining for bits of information from passing conversations, hoping yet fearing to know Jesus’ fate?
What was Simon Peter doing, thinking, and feeling after the cross and before the resurrection?
Meditate on this question. Especially if you’ve ever been overwhelmed by guilt, fear, and shame.
Be encouraged by the one thing we know about Simon Peter’s whereabouts on Friday and Saturday: He did not follow Judas Iscariot down the one-way path of despair after betraying his beloved Lord. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday, Peter was back in the company of Jesus’ family and disciples. Along with them, he experienced the amazement and joy of the Lord’s victory over death. He was forgiven for his failings. He was—transformed!
Learn more of Peter’s story in Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas. The first script in this collection of half-hour one-act plays is Simon Peter, Transformed. Simon Peter’s appearance on a TV news show is comically interrupted by his brother, Andrew, who proceeds to “help” Peter explain to the hard-nosed interviewer how the brash betrayer became a solid rock of faith.
And please join me at the online Book Launch Party for Transformed on Facebook on February 22, 2014. HINT: The previous paragraph of this post might help you win a prize at the party!
Click here and then click the “Join” button to join the event. You can do that ahead of time. Please invite your friends who might like my dramas. Then visit the event page on February 22 to wish me well, answer trivia questions for giveaways, and get info about 50% book discounts.
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