Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Second Chance

He was a broken man. Was this what all hope, all confidence came down to in the end? Where did faith finish and falsehood begin? How could it have come to this? How does a man rebuild his life when he is not who he thought he was?

He had always seen himself in the front rank. He was the leader, perhaps not the cleverest but certainly the one most willing to step out. He was the first to take action, the first to speak, and the others, less sure of themselves, often waited for him to go first. He had been the first to name Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and that had been the moment when Jesus had said, “upon this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” That must mean something, surely? He had been one of the three on the mountain, and seen some of the glory of Jesus. He had seen Moses and Elijah with his very own eyes! Didn’t that make him special? He had gone into the room where the little girl was raised from the dead, and he had stored in his heart three precious years of teaching and learning, three precious years in the company of one whom he thought he had come to love more than his own life (except that it seemed he didn’t after all). And he was the only one of them all to have actually stepped out of the boat and, for those unforgettable moments, actually walked on water! Didn’t that make him special?

And now it had all fallen apart. On that dreadful, dreadful night he had discovered the truth: he, Simon Peter, the big guy, catcher of fish and fisher of men, right hand man to the Messiah (or so he had secretly called himself) was nothing but a coward. He had been willing to deny Jesus, and not even (as he had tried to convince himself) for the sake of preserving his own skin, but simply to be spared a few jeering remarks from strangers. Had he been fooling himself all the time that he loved the Master?

He would never forget the terrible time that followed, and hoped never to walk through such darkness again. That Jesus had gone to His death knowing that Peter had let Him down hurt almost as much as the loss of his Lord – or more , or less, or something else altogether – in that measureless night there was no meaning in weighing out the components of his grief. Still, it was another sword thrust into his pride to know that even the women had been braver than he.

In the glory-light of the resurrection it all looked different now, but did Jesus still want him? He had trembled at the edges of things, borne up, as they all were, by the mighty tide of wonder, but now, as he splashed ashore from the fishing boat, he saw himself as another broken creature, caught inexorably in the net of God and waiting for its fate:

“Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?”

He was pierced, he was broken, he was shamed beyond all measure or understanding, but nothing mattered now except to raise his shame-cast eyes and speak what he now saw was his deepest truth: “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” And that was truly enough

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