Peter’s questions: “Lord, where are you going?”

I wrote three monologues about Peter, one of Christ’s apostles, in which I tried to humanize him and show how he might have felt about the events surrounding the last days before Christ’s crucifixion. I did it without realizing that I would be asked to perform these at Communion service in our church (no one was willing to tackle all the memorization involved!). This happened yesterday, once in the morning, and once in the evening.

Some people asked me to make the monologues available, so I am posting them here, starting today:

“Lord, where are you going?”

Growing up in the home of a fisherman like I did was always an adventure. For one thing, we didn’t we ever follow a schedule. The tide was our king so when it changed we were on the move; if the fish got scarce, we scattered, only to camp out somewhere and wait what appeared to be endless hours for that great catch… which sometimes was so great, it never came.

Moving at a fast pace, pausing, hurrying up again were as common to me as eating “Matza” during Passover, so when I decided to follow this Jewish Rabi who was claiming to be the Messiah, I knew exactly what I was signing up for – lots of strenuous journeys up and down the barren hills of Palestine, little sleep, food on the fly, and not much solitude. But I was ready for the challenge.

And for three and a half years I followed this man who had divine powers but never seemed to like to tell us what was next on his agenda. As soon as we got settled into a village, he was on the move again – a friend was ill, and he had to go and heal him; a sudden wedding invitation and he would haul all of us into the home of a person we had never met before. Such was, then, the life of a Messiah-follower – always on the move, not settling anywhere, and never complaining about the pace.

Oh for sure, some of the guys who were not used to physical activity, did try to complain, but I always reminded them that they were there by choice, plus they always had the option of dropping out. Matthew, who was used to just sitting outside the city gates collecting money, was so out of shape that he often lagged behind. We started joking with him that we were going to tax him since he was always the last one to get anywhere…  Matthew wasn’t laughing, especially when we made a human chair with our arms and invited him to sit on his old tax collector’s seat, and we would say, “Hail to the old publican!”

You may laugh, but we had to come up with stuff like that to entertain ourselves – the pace was so brutal and the food tentative at best. I must have lost twenty kilos just in my first year following him. Jesus was a king on the move. He was the master tide-changer and we, mere humans, had to keep up with him. I lost count of how many times we walked the countryside from Galilee to Judea, from Judea to Galilee, but I was taking everything in stride. I was, after all, a tough old fisherman; nothing could phase me.

Toward the end, though, I must admit that even I was getting a little tired. He began to talk about going back to Jerusalem one more time. We wanted to hang on to him a little longer because we knew that things were so volatile in Jerusalem. They had marked him and by extension they had marked all of us. We tried to convince him to head north and go home, but he said no. “All right, then,” I said, “Let’s all go and die with him there.” But I was just kidding … dying wasn’t exactly on my bucket list.

The night before Passover, just as we entered Jerusalem, he began to talk in the familiar tones of someone who is saying good-bye. We couldn’t quite get it and John was freaking out. He thought he and Jesus were so tight they would never be separated. Not to be outdone, I was waiting for a chance to tell Jesus that if he thought he could “lose” me, he might as well forget about it. I didn’t leave fishing just because I needed some exercise – I was in it for the long haul and I was going to stick with him no matter what.

My chance came when Jesus announced He was going somewhere we could not follow him. He said, “In a little while you will look for me but not find me.” I thought, “No, we aren’t!” I mean, hadn’t I left everything to follow Him? Wasn’t I willing to endure His demanding schedule? To pick up and go at a moment’s notice? Hadn’t He done enough tide change in our lives to last a lifetime? And what do you mean we will seek you but not find you? How do you play hide and seek with the Messiah?

“Slow down, Peter,” I thought, “Don’t run your mouth like you did before.” So I hid my emotions and said, almost in a whisper, “Lord, where are you going?” I wanted a street address, with a zip code, if at all possible, but instead I got more of the same coded language he had used before: “Where I am going, you cannot follow now,” but He didn’t stop there. He got teary-eyed, and a deep sense of tenderness filled the air when he added, “… but you will follow later.”

I didn’t quite get it, but it didn’t matter anyway because just about now the old emotional Peter was back. Pumping my chest, I said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!!” His eyes were now completely filled with tears and He uttered those words I wish I had never heard, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And that’s how history went down, remember?

I suppose you could think that this story ends on a sad note, but you would be wrong. Though I remember his piercing words about my denial, it is the confident words about the future that I remember the most. He said, “… but you will follow later.” Wow. On the eve of what would be his most excruciatingly painful test, Jesus was pointing to a future joyous occasion when we would be together with Him again. And the thought of that future reunion with Him has kept me going.

After His resurrection, He hung around with us for five weeks. It was a sneak preview of that future reunion. We, who saw Him fade into the chamber of death, also saw Him after He burst through the gates of hell and proclaimed victory over sin. So no matter what happens to us, we are not turning back, and this time around this old fisherman can say with complete understanding, “Lord, I will lay down my life for you!”

Ivanildo C. Trindade