1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”12So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,16but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. John 18:1-18
I stand beside Peter in the garden. I watch him take his sword and swing it wildly, taking off the ear of the high priest’s servant. His desire to protect Jesus, to stave off what is coming, what is inevitable, is clear even in the dark of the garden. But Jesus is quick to act. To counteract Peter’s lashing out. To stop him. To assure him that even now, Jesus is still in control.
Jesus remains in control even as Malchus’ ear is cut off by Peter.
Jesus remains in control even as Judas Iscariot leads a band of soldiers into this sacred space to arrest him.
Jesus remains in control despite the dire circumstances.
Even as he is bound and led away by this band of soldiers, Jesus provides reassurance to his disciples. To Peter. The same Peter who will follow him even if at a distance. The same Peter who will watch what happens from the shadows. The same Peter who will deny him only a short time from now.
As Jesus and another disciple enter the courtyard of the high priest, Peter stands outside. Peter waits.
While he waits does he glance around? Does he hide his face? Does he consider running?
While he waits does he feel alone? Even in the midst of the crowd that is growing around him, does he feel alone? Abandoned? Afraid?
While he waits does he believe that Jesus is really still in control?
Watching him and watching Jesus, do I?
After only a few moments, the other disciple approaches the door, speaks to a young servant girl and gets Peter inside the courtyard. I wonder as I watch him, does he long to be somewhere else? Anywhere else? Anywhere but here?
I think perhaps he may.
How can he not? This is his friend, his Lord, his Savior. This is the Messiah, the King of Kings. This is Jesus.
I think perhaps he must. Why else does he not hesitate in his denial of being one of Jesus’ disciples?
But here he is. Inside the courtyard and gathered around the fire with the servants and the soldiers. One other disciple is here. But, really, Peter is alone.
In the midst of this crowd. With Jesus standing not far off. Standing by the warm, cozy fire. Peter is alone.
He seems to shiver. And though it is cold, I cannot help but think that he does not shiver from the chill. I cannot help but think that he shivers from fear. And from loneliness. And because he is beginning to understand what is happening. Beginning to understand what is coming.
Standing close to the fire does little to take the chill from my bones. Does little to soothe the ache that is forming deep in my stomach. Deep in my heart.
Standing close to the fire I shake and wrap my arms tightly around myself to quell the shivers of fear and shame that build inside me. I look around at the faces huddled close to the fire and wonder if in the glow of the dancing, flickering firelight they can see the tears that spill onto my cheeks as I fold into myself.
Even though I feel the body heat from those pressed against me. Even though I am jostled by the movements of these strangers. Even though I know I am surrounded by a growing crowd of soldiers and servants. Even so, I feel small. I feel alone.
It is a bone-deep loneliness and longing.
I can see Jesus. He is standing right there. Not more than a few yards from me. And yet he is so far away.
I wonder if he would hear me if I whispered his name. I’m pretty sure he would. Because he is Jesus; he is God.
But right now, in this moment, what is he thinking? What does he need? Not the God-side part of Jesus, but the human side of him. It feels almost selfish to be so focused on my longing, my loneliness, my fear right now.
Is he tired?
Is he thirsty?
Does he feel alone?
Does he feel abandoned?
Does he feel afraid?
This Jesus who created the world. This Jesus who created man. This Jesus who is the only begotten son.
Does he feel afraid?
He knows his purpose. He’s known it since before the world began. But does that mean he doesn’t feel what I feel right now? That he doesn’t feel a hundred times more than what I’m feeling. He is fully God and fully man. It is a mystery I do not understand, but one that I believe.
And as I shiver by the fire, I long to comfort him. I long to take his hand in mine and stand beside him. I long to free him.
If only I were not the one who so desperately needed freeing.
And so I do the only thing I can do in this moment. I stand and watch. And wait. And cry.
I cry for Jesus.
I cry for Peter.
I cry for myself. For the part I’ve played in all of this.