Several years ago, I helped put the story below together for Under Over Fellowship’s Good Friday service. We did a four part reading of the story of Easter from Peter’s perspective. I would like to share it with you. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it in preparation for this weekend and hope it will be a blessing. I will post a portion of the story today, tomorrow, Saturday, and then Sunday.
PART ONE OF FOUR
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
This is the account of what you call Maundy Thursday, or the night Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples, including myself.
The events of that last week are still a jumble in my head. Sometimes one thing leaps out at me; sometimes another. Jesus did a lot of teaching that week. In the temple, as we walked to an from the city and when we were back in Bethany at night. He told us about things that did not make sense until afterwards. I guess we were a little slow to hear. It seems no matter how many times Jesus tried to prepare us, we just could not see God’s plan. Until after. But he taught us so much that week that has stayed in our memories.
I remember the first day of Unleavened Bread, the day on which we had to sacrifice the Passover lamb. Jesus sent John and I to prepare the meal. We made ready the upper room where Jesus had said we would find it. We checked every corner to make sure no leaven was present. Then we bought wine and herbs and unleavened bread. Next we went out and purchased a lamb to take to the temple to offer the Passover sacrifice at twilight. Everybody else in Jerusalem was there for the same reason so it took no little time for the lamb to be killed and the blood to be drained, then the body skinned and cleaned and all the fat cut off and burned before the lamb was roasted whole. Passover in Jerusalem was…..noisy. All kinds of startled bleats and strange voices and languages. Everyone was anxious for the feast. The air was hot and smoky with the smells of sacrifices. I was more than ready to go outside into the cool evening air and back to the Upper Room.
Jesus and the others came in shortly after we got back. Everyone was talking at once, telling about their day. We were so distracted and preoccupied by our ambition and establishing our pecking order that no one noticed our feet were still filthy from the street. In the midst of the hubbub, it suddenly got quiet. Jesus had taken off his outer robe and tied a towel around his waist and was pouring water from the pitcher into a basin. He went over to Phillip, knelt down and washed his feet. Phillip sat there with a stunned look. Jesus turned to Andrew and did the same. Around the room he went.
When he got to me, I stopped him and said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” He looked at me and said, very patiently, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later on you will understand.” I couldn’t believe it. “You will never wash my feet,” I almost shouted. Jesus, in that very calm and commanding way of his just said, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” That was all it took. Then my impetuous side overcame me. There words were out before I could even think. “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus called me back down to earth. “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are all clean, though not one of you.”
I heard those last words as if in a trance while Jesus picked up one foot and then the other and washed away the dust and the grime they had picked up that day. He washed them like a servant. When he was done he explained why he had become our servant. “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the ones who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” The King of Heaven kneeling at the feet of his friends, washing their feet. I know. I was there.
When Jesus was finished things settled down and got back to normal. We began to set the food out on the table and take our places. We sang Passover hymns together. We remembered Israel in Egypt and the night the Angel of the Lord passed over the firstborn children of Israel. We rejoiced in God who ‘with his strong hand brought us out of Egypt.’ We recounted the story in answer to the question, “Why is this night different from every other night?”
While we were doing this Jesus became very troubled. His somberness caught our attention. We became quiet and waited. At last he said, “Very truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Heads shook as we turned to look at each other. What did he mean? Who was he talking about? I motioned to John who was sitting next to Jesus, to get him to ask Jesus who he was speaking of. I saw John ask. I strained to hear. “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” The hairs on my body stood on end. I had goose bumps. The blood rushed from my head as I saw Jesus pass the piece to Judas. Jesus leaned over and spoke to him and he left. I was stunned. John looked like he had been hit by and escaped bull.
Everyone else started murmuring about Judas going out to do some of Jesus’ bidding. Nobody else seemed to have caught on or heard. I felt disoriented. James must have told a joke. The others beside him were laughing. Everyone but John and Jesus and I resumed eating and talking. I didn’t know what to think about this. Had I imagined it?
I didn’t have a lot of time to muse, though, as at that moment Jesus called for quiet. He picked up one of the round, flat pita breads and he blessed it. Then he broke it, tearing it to pieces and handed it around to us saying, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Afterwards in the same manner he took the cup in front of him and he gave thanks and said, “This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” We all drank from the cup. I heard Jesus saying something about not drinking of the vine again until he drank it anew in the Kingdom of God. It was a very special time. I know. I was there.
Very shortly after supper we headed out across the Kidron Valley to the Garden on the Mount of Olives. We were singing hymns along the way but quietly as the night was getting later. I often wonder if Jesus took strength from the hymns during those last hours in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sometimes I think about him being surrounded by the trees and fruit from which the anointing oil is made during those last precious moments before he was taken like a criminal.
While we were walking along, Jesus told us, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will become scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” That is when I claimed in my pride and arrogance, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to me, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” I don’t know why I had to argue with him, what fantasies drove me to think I was so powerful, so courageous on my own, but I heard myself, I still hear myself, say vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” The rest of them said it with me. We were so sure.
When we arrived at our usual place Jesus indicated that he was going to pray. He said to all of us, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial. Sit here while I pray.” He motioned to James and John and myself to go on further into the garden with him. He was very upset, very anxious, pacing a little as he spoke. “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and keep awake.” He went a little further and he threw himself on the ground. I watched him do it as if in slow motion. I heard him ever so faintly but I could just make out, “Father, for you all things are possible. If you are willing, remove this cup from me, yet, not my will but yours be done.”
My emotions had been stretched so much this week and this day that I suddenly felt drowsy and before I knew it I had drifted off to sleep. The next thing I knew Jesus was standing over me saying, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come to the tome of trial; the spirit indeed is willing Simon, but the flesh is weak!”
I would soon find out how weak! What you might not realize, is Jesus only called me Simon when I needed a rebuke or admonishment. He game me the name Peter or Rock because He needed me to be the man He intended me to be, like a rock, solid in my faith. From the time he first called me Petra, the Lord could gently chide or commend me just by using one name or another. Oh, how I wished He had used Peter that night instead of Simon!
He went away again and prayed as before. I started to pray myself and again nodded my head in sleep. Jesus woke us up. We did not know what to say. I felt ashamed. He went back to praying. We went back to sleeping. At last he came again and said to us, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour is come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
While Jesus was speaking we could hear the commotion of a crowd coming towards us. There was Judas with a bunch of men carrying clubs and swords and the officers of the temple police and elders. Judas cried out, “Rabbi!” and went up to Jesus and kissed him. The men with the clubs laid hold of Jesus to arrest him. That’s when everything got a little crazy. I drew the sword I had hidden away and sliced off the right ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told me to put my sword away. “Am I not to drink the cup that my father has given me?” That’s when they began to bind Jesus with cords and the menace of the crowd grew. All of us began to slip away as quickly as we could. I withdrew far enough for safety and to watch. As they began to move away, I followed to see where they were taking Jesus. This really happened. I know. I was there.
What is the one thing everyone in the world possesses the same of at the beginning of each day? What do the President of the United States, a guy on the street, a billionaire, a doctor, and a pastor all possess in equal amounts? The answer is time. We all have 1440 minutes each day.
I beg of you my friends, learn from me! My Master asked me to do something and I slept instead. I did not make the most of my time with him and my time spent serving and learning from him. You don’t know how bad I wish I could change that now. So I ask you now brothers and sisters……..What is the Lord calling you to do in your life? What might you be sleeping on? Learn from me!