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MEMORIES OF SIMON
He was probably exhausted, lying on his back, rubbing sleep from his eyes. I imagine the previous night was spent awake; not rest, no sleep, just staring off into corners of the room, wandering just outside the door, staring blankly into the fire.
The night before that he stood outside waiting, listening for news like everyone else in the high priest’s courtyard. That night was the worst. He stood there all-night listening to people lie about a man he had come to call his mentor, his brother. He heard the dull thump and slap of open hands, fists, and staves against bare skin; he heard the painful groaning with each blow inflicted.
Sometime during the night’s events, a girl walked up to him. She was a servant of the high priest, someone who was accustomed to hearing snippets of conversation, and catching glimpses of people in her duties. She recognized him and said as much.
“No, you must be mistaken. I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said to the sound of a rooster calling to the waiting morning.
The girl didn’t let up, insisting he was one of the prisoner’s friends. Again, and with more forced tones, he denied it, claiming to have never known the man. Agitated, heartbroken, and terrified that when they finished with the Teacher they would come looking for him, he stood facing the fire, face and hands clenched, trying desperately to block out the events going on around him but also desperate to know what was happening with the Teacher. Amid his reverie someone took a long look at him and said, “You have to be one of his friends. You’re from the same place he is.” The man swore. He cursed. “I don’t know him! I don’t know what you are talking about!” His words were once again punctuated by the first rays of the sun and the sound of the rooster calling a second time.
The Teacher had told him. He swore it wouldn’t happen, swore he wouldn’t be a faithless friend but would be there to the end and yet here he was hearing those words again, “Before the rooster calls twice, you will deny that you know me three times.” The words of the Teacher landed like a smith’s anvil and the man ran away, weeping like a child.
That was Friday morning. That was before the slaughter, before the soldiers hauled a man with immeasurable spirit but broken body through the streets of Jerusalem. That was before the Teacher was lashed to a pair of wooden beams and pinned there with iron nails. That was before he collapsed under the weight of the pain, the beatings, the torture and suffocated from the blood that filled his lungs.
Now, he lay here in the early morning, the other members of his extended family scattered around the home, each broken in their own way. I imagine him wondering, “What’s next? What do we do now? Go back to fishing? Go back to a life we lived before and the people we used to be?”
He stands and walks to the window, trying to wake up, trying to breath in some fresh air to counter the smell of the musty room, this small space shared with everyone else. As the dawn begins to lighten the sky, he sees three shapes moving down the street, familiar silhouettes against the coming light. His eyes focus and the shapes become distinct: Mary, James’ mother followed by Salome and then Mary Magdalene. The three women come down the street at breakneck speed. He starts to worry, wondering if the same authorities that are coming to finish off the rest of the movement that the Teacher started. Maybe the women are coming to warn them. Maybe they are trying to escape. But no, they aren’t running in fear. Salome breaks her stride and skips. Skips? The other women laugh at her and it is then that he realizes: the women have lost their minds.
He opens the door and they all rush in and begin to talk, waking the others in the process with their exuberant chatter. Finally, he gets them to settle down and Mary Magdalene tells the story. They were going to anoint the body after the custom. After all, they, as much as anyone, were the Teacher’s family. They arrived at the tomb wondering who would help them move the grave stone when they discovered it was already moved. A young man sat to the right of the entrance, glowing white in appearance. Smiling, he told them Jesus of Nazareth, the Teacher, their brother and friend was resurrected from the grave, risen and alive again.
Mary was beside herself. “And he told us to come tell you Peter, and all the disciples that he was going on ahead to Galilee and he would meet you there.” And Peter wept again, running out of the city, out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus once again.
Easter is the celebration of Jesus resurrection, the message that while he was crucified by Roman soldiers at the urging of the Sanhedrin and buried in a borrowed tomb, he did not stay there. Jesus of Nazareth rose from the grave. Normally, hen we think of resurrection, we think of this as the Resurrection or the time at the ‘end of the age’ when God reforms the Creation and the dead in Christ will be resurrected. But there was another resurrection that happened on the third day after Jesus crucifixion: the resurrection of Peter.
Predictably impulsive and prone to giving himself foot-in-mouth disease, Peter is without a doubt the most like us of any biblical character. He blunders into all the things we would, asks all the questions we would, acts with the obvious rashness of one who sort of gets it but sort of doesn’t, all while truly wanting to do the right thing. He is much like a modern-day action hero: act first, deal with the consequences later.
Simon Peter was one of the first disciples called by name in the Gospel of Mark. In spite of or perhaps because of this, he seems to be the most comfortable speaking on behalf of the others. Nearly every major story or event in the text includes Peter directly or indirectly. And through it all, like the others, he rarely gets what is going on, rarely can see beyond the immediate moment. He rises high to name Jesus as the Messiah and then a moment later reprimands Jesus and is himself reprimanded for predicting Jesus’ suffering and death. And at the last, he claims to be faithful to death only to run away in shame at being called a disciple of Jesus.
Yet, we come to the end of the story and read these beautiful words, “Go tell, the disciples and Peter, that Jesus is going on ahead to Galilee.”
Think about your own life, all the great things God may have done through you, the mountaintop moments of fellowship and presence. Think also about all the failures, mistakes, times of absolute despair. Now, insert your own name.
Go and tell Michael…
Fill in your own name and the name of everyone you know because the resurrection wasn’t just Jesus and it wasn’t just Peter. It was everyone who has ever drawn breath, everyone ever born has had a chance to be resurrected, reconciled to God. This isn’t a just a story, it’s our story.
And it isn’t over.
No matter how down and out you may be or feel, no matter how wrecked you think your life is, there is always the chance to repent – literally to alter the direction of your life and reorient it toward God. Jesus was the first fruit of the resurrection but all of us who have come to realize the need to orient our lives toward God and responded by a change of heart and life have experienced resurrection as well.
And if you haven’t, today can be your resurrection day: the day where you leave a dead life in the grave of your past and embrace a new, risen life in the Way of Jesus.
Be safe. Be prayerful. Be resurrection people.