He’ll go down in history for it. Doesn’t know it yet, as he cowers there like a wounded animal, his face drenched with phlegm and saltwater, his fists balled into clutches of fear and confusion. But this will be passed on, travel down the ages, this night of broken promises and lost ambitions. For a moment a vision races through his mind, a picture of his friend sobbing near a tomb. No embarrassment or attempt to cover it up. Crying. His miracle-making friend broken by the loss of another friend. Feeling the weight of grief. Peter shakes his head, as if to dispel the image. It makes little sense here and now, when the big fisherman can do nothing. When Jesus wept his tears sowed the seeds of resurrection. Lazarus came stumbling back into the light of day. He doubts his sobbing will do anything as miraculous. Tears will soak his pillow this night, but his sad sowing will surely not lead to the reaping of anything good, anything joyful in the morning. Anger, sadness, humiliation… the sorry mess mixes in a river of pain. Men don’t cry. Fishermen don’t cry.
Couldn’t he just turn the clock back and rewrite the last three years? Spend it fishing, watching the Nazarene from afar, not getting involved. Then there could be no denial. No sudden tidal wave of terror when confronted by some wide-eyed, lowly servant. It would be just another news story he would hear, local boy makes bad, another wannabe messiah murdered by the Romans. ‘Never mind,’ he’d mutter, ‘it happens.’ Seen it before, many times. Visionaries rise, underestimating the might of Rome, the brutal fist of the emperor, the deadly swiftness of that killing machine. Then he could just stand back and shake his head. Mutter about seeing it coming. Instead of this. Instead of the terrible trauma of making a promise he knows now he could never keep. ‘I’ll never run, I wouldn’t be that small, that useless.’ He snorts at himself through the tears now, at his wild wishful claim that he’d somehow find the strength to stick with Jesus through thick and thin. But then he’d never imagined times would become so thin. Never imagined that the miracle man who could raise the dead would bow his head and walk quietly towards his own destruction.
He shakes his head. What is this? Surely not the end? Surely not the way this thing will finish? It should have stopped on that mountain top. With Elijah and Moses and the glory. Should have ended there, they should have let him build his shelters instead of contradicting his grand plan. Why come down the mountain if all it meant was spears and spit and slaughter? He hears a shout and pounding footsteps. They’re coming for him. He turns and runs with every ounce of his might, like lava hurtling from a vomiting volcano. Still the footsteps close in on him. He’s going to be captured too. Going to die in the dismal darkness of this night. He can’t outrun them. Then, just as he expects the vice-like grip of Rome biting into his shoulder, the steps go on, pounding past him. And he slows up, his jaw dropping a little. It’s not a savage military man at all. Just a kid, barely clothed, running for all his might. Like him, like Peter, exposed, naked in his weakness and fear. He slows, ducks down a dark alley and waits for the dawn. A dawn with little light in it as far as he’s concerned. Will he ever look into that wondrous courageous face again? His miracle-making friend. Could there be one more miracle left? He drops to a crouch in the filth of that alley, and prays through his sobbing that it might just be so.
Mark 14 vv 71-72, Psalm 126 v 5, Psalm 6 v 6, Mark 14 vv 50-52