He walked slowly through the streets of Jerusalem, despondent, seeing little. Or seeing too much. Jesus looking at him, sorrow in his eyes. He heard little. But he heard much. The rooster crowing. He felt little. But he felt much. The warmth of the fire, which seemed now like a sting of shame.
Oh, he had been bold. Striking off that guards ear. He had been reprimanded, also, as his master gently, oh, so gently, healing the guard who had come to arrest him.
And wasn't the story of his life? His highs were high. A smile tugged at his lips, remembering his declaration. "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Then he remembered being called Satan. He saw it now- the Christ had to die. Had to. So many prophecies flowed through his mind. Again he saw himself on the mountain, seeing the Christ in all his glory, and Moses and Elijah, too! Then the gentle reprimand from the cloud.
But those moments of victory were over for him. How could he face his master again? How could he possibly face the others? He had followed, alright, followed his master right into temptation. What had come over him, some force moving his mouth? He saw which way the wind was blowing, but he had followed Yeshua through all the tumults of the last three years. No, it was not that.
Was it his master's pain, as he clutched the ground in agony, begging for the cup to pass? Perhaps it was then that he realized for the first time that the Christ would not be what he expected. His faith had been shaken, to be sure. But what faith? Faith in what he had been told, or faith in his Messiah?
Of course it had been easy then to give up, to surrender. Last he saw, Jesus had been led off toward the fortress to stand before the governor. And he had gone off to weep bitterly. Weep because his master had been right. He had denied his master. Now there was nothing left but to catch fish.
Several days later, he sat in the upper room. He was still the leader of the disciples, and they sat closely, almost huddling. Jesus was dead, and they had to decide what now to do. All of them agreed that he had to die. Peter had gone over the prophecies with them, and all saw the truth of what Yeshua had said. But now what? Most of them were fishermen. They could regroup, away from the prying eyes of the Pharisees.
He was about to raise the issue when he realized someone else was in the room. The women had said...and Peter had seen the empty tomb. But he thought that he had been dreaming...hoping. No. All would rise on the last day, but not before. So he could not be truly seeing what he was seeing. Yeshua stood before them.
"I am not a ghost," the Christ said. There was a hint of a smile, and Peter remembered his fear out on the water, that night when he had done the impossible. "Is there anything to eat?"
John rose and brought some fish. Peter watched. Yeshua ate it like a normal man. A ghost wouldn't eat. Peter knew that. Finally, his doubts crumbled. Yeshua had risen, just like he said he would. Still, Peter could not look him in the eye. Not like he had once done. The memory of the denial still stung, weighing on him like a chain. Yeshua went around the table, speaking to each man. When he came to Peter, he whispered softly. "Forgiven, Peter. Forgiven."
But Peter still couldn't believe it. He would do his best, but he couldn't believe he could possibly be in the place he was before. Not standing at Yeshua's side, ready to see and hear things the other disciples didn't. He didn't deserve it.
Peter stood on the boat, feet planted to the deck as the waves sloshed around him. He scowled at the water. Where were all the fish? He had fished these same waters and brought up full nets night after night.
Next to him, John spoke. "Let's head in. I am tired. We can try again tomorrow."
Peter shrugged. He didn't want to give up. He didn't want to feel like a failure at fishing also. It was getting light, though, and he knew what that meant. Carefully, he began to pull in the nets. Andrew, who was sitting, now rose. "There's someone out there," he said. "On the shore. Look!"
Peter strained his eyes against the rising sun. Indeed, someone stood on the shore. He was tending a small fire, and the smell of roasting fish carried over the water. Peter felt his stomach grumble. Maybe this man would share.
The man's voice carried in the still air. "Friends, have you caught any fish?"
"No," Peter said.
"Throw the nets on the other side," the man suggested. Peter shrugged. He had accepted orders like that before, and had hauled in full nets. He motioned for John and Andrew to throw them back out. They nodded, and threw them over to the left. Immediately the boat began to tilt that direction, and John gasped. "The nets...they are full!"
Peter knew. He just knew. Tossing on his outer garment, he dived into the water. He was a strong swimmer, and in a few minutes had made it to shore. He felt the others coming behind, hauling the nets. He was unsure of what to do, suddenly shy, and busied himself counting fish. Two hundred fifty three. He would share with his master, and put a few more on the coals. Yeshua smiled. There was bread he had brought also. Soon there was breakfast ready, and all of them ate in silence.
After they had eaten, Yeshua motioned Peter to one side. "Peter, son of Jonah, do you love me?"
"I do," Peter said.
"Then feed my sheep," Yeshua said, motioning to the others. Peter remembered what Yeshua had said and swallowed hard. He had nothing to teach but betrayal. But maybe...
"Peter, do you love me?" Yeshua's voice was gentle.
Peter felt some irritation. "Lord, you know that I love you." He did, but what did Yeshua want him to do?
"Then feed my lambs," Yeshua said. Peter was getting the hint now. Yeshua had meant what he said, despite everything. Deep inside, he felt the fear begin to lift. Had he not already begun, explaining the prophecies of the Messiah's death? He needed Yeshua's help, though. He could not do it without him.
"Peter, do you love me more than these?" Now Peter was stung. He remembered how he felt after the denial, when he realized he loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. He swallowed thickly. Did he? But then came his words, back to memory.
"You alone have the words of eternal life." He meant it. He still meant it, he realized. There was no one else. What was fishing but a way to escape the pain of what he had done? He felt the tears form in his eyes.
"You know all things. You know that I love you."
"Then feed my lambs," Yeshua said. For the first time since the upper room, Peter finally felt peace. He was at last forgiven, and he could accept that.
Peter bowed his head, feeling a prickling in his shoulder blades. For the last nine days, he had prayed, worshipping with the songs and psalms he knew. Around him were 119 men and women, who believed in Yeshua like he did. He had been told to wait for power from on high, and that was what he had done.
Of course there was the business of finding another disciple. He had wanted to kill Judas, but the guilty look in his eyes when he had come with the guard had kept him from it. He had hoped Judas had found forgiveness as he had, but then report had come of his suicide. He felt sorrow, but went about finding a replacement. Matthias stood beside him now, singing one of the psalms of ascent. He had a good voice, Peter admitted. His own was the voice of a bullfrog.
Suddenly Matthias cut off. Peter felt it too. The whole building was shaking, and a wind blew through the building like a whirlwind. At once, the shaking stopped, as did the wind. Peter was about to speak when he stopped dead. A little flame was dancing above Matthias' head, and he was singing a song Peter had never heard before.
He himself shook like a leaf in high wind. Something wanted to come out of him, and he began to speak in a langauge he did not know. John, on the other side, looked at him in shock. Peter moved to the door. He knew he had to let everyone know what was coming out of him.
Suddenly he laughed. This was the power from on high? It seemed crazy and strange, like the things he heard went on in pagan temples, but it felt...right. Feeling a boldness he had never felt before, he went out...into history.
A/N: I wanted to explore some of Peter's emotions and thoughts from the time that he denied Christ to the time that the Holy Spirit came in power. And I do want to encourage my readers.
We have all done things for which we are ashamed. Like Peter, we fail and fall. Don't ever think there is not forgiveness. There is...if only we ask.