I thought I’d just sit in the courtyard, by the fire with the other bystanders, and wait to see if there was any news. It was a cold night, and the whole scene in the garden put a chill in me that I couldn’t shake. Not even the fire helped.
I kept flashing the pictures in my mind. Things had changed so fast, after we got into the city. That first day of crowds and celebration. It was all so bewildering! I’m still not used to big cities. We told him it was too risky, the priests would be all over him – and he wasn’t so good at biting his tongue and holding his temper, when it came down to it. But he insisted, and we became part of the spectacle. Some of us were trying to watch out for threats – I know there were spies in the crowd – and the rumor was that Pilate was arriving in the city on the same day. If the Romans were trying to keep things calm for Passover, we were doing exactly the wrong thing. But nobody leaped out to stop us, and we rode right through the city gates.
You know, every day I tried to get him to tell me what he had in mind, and he wouldn’t tell me. He would just shake his head and say, “Peter, Peter. My rock. Even now, you try to intervene. Do you not see?” I said I would never leave him, never desert him. But he seemed to be going to a place I could not follow. It hurt. I didn’t understand.
I was with him in the temple when he upset the tables and sacrificial animals were out of their cages, flying and running around us all. (Why is it the animals always seem to act up when he is angry!) I was with him at dinner and even though he shared the blessing with us, he seemed so far away. I was with him when we went out of the city, and before we reached the garden, he had promised me that I – I, Peter, the Rock – would deny him. Me!
I fell asleep in my cloak while he was praying – but I was there. I was with him. I was with him – too - until Judas came with his corrupt cronies. Then I watched from the shadows, hidden in the trees, shivering, as their torches bobbed down the hill toward the city.
What could I do now? I waited until they had gone a safe distance, then I followed. I went to the chief priest’s house. It was the only thing I could come up with. I may be thick sometimes, but I’m no coward. I thought maybe I would hear word about what was happening inside. Maybe I could save him – maybe I could bring word to the others – but I had to get close enough to find out.
So I had my hands out toward the fire – still couldn’t shake that chill – as a servant-girl made her way around the courtyard. It was packed with people, and she had to thread her way between the crowd. She looked bright. The servants know all the house gossip. Maybe she would know what was happening. I caught her eye –and it seemed to work – but before I said anything she looked me up and down and said “I know you. You were with him! You were with Jesus the Galilean!”
I moved away pretty quickly. Slid into the shadows on the porch. How did she know me? Nobody was supposed to know I had been there, at the parade, when the teacher rode a donkey into the city. I couldn’t have anyone betraying my secret.
It got closer and closer to morning and the courtyard grew lighter. I saw more of the elders coming in to the house and I desperately wanted to know what it meant. I wanted to be with him and it was tearing me apart. I wanted to know why this was all happening.
But the people waiting there wouldn’t leave me alone. That servant girl must have talked because another one started whispering in people’s ears. Soon, everyone was turning and looking at me in the early morning light and I had to swear it – SWEAR it – and I said “I do not know that man!”
My words were still ringing in the early morning air when the rooster crowed. I ran out of the courtyard. I ran to get away from the sound, and what I’d just said, and what I had just done. I ran down the streets and alleyways until I couldn’t go any longer. And I stopped and sank down as low as I could go and I cried as if my heart would break.
I did not know that man. But he knew me.