The Dark Before the Dawn (Saturday)

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 posted a portion of the story Thursday (see Maundy Thursday), yesterday (Good Friday), today, and will tomorrow.

PART THREE OF FOUR

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

This is an account of Saturday, the day between the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

There were happy days, long ago, when my brother and I would put out into the Sea of Galilee, visiting one of our regular sweet spots just off the shore of Capernaum. The weight of the net, as we hauled it back to the boat, would be almost too much to bear.

We’d throw everything we had into the ropes, straining, bending our back to it. Sweat would pour off us, spill into our eyes till we couldn’t see, leaving the rope slippery in our hands.

What pleasant pain we felt in our arms and backs once the catch was in. Our arms would throb, our backs felt as if they would never again straighten, the palms of our hands burned from the tough rope-but soon we’d be back at it, tossing the empty net out over the waves, then hauling its new catch back in.

Ah, those were the days!

How I long for them, those happy days of ignorance. I wonder now if I’ll ever again know such peace. For the last three years I’ve lived with God—–and now I’ve had a hand in killing Him.

Last night, after they buried Jesus, I went out into the city. The streets were so silent and black, and I wrapped the blackness about me and tried to forget what I had done. Even then I was afraid-I was so afraid someone would see me and identify me with Him. Maybe the same fate would await me? I was so ashamed, but I couldn’t stop being afraid for myself. In my mind I remembered what Jesus had said; that there was a reason for his dying. But in my heart I saw only a coward who denied even knowing Him.

He had trusted me, and I thought only of myself.

The street was empty, the twisted street that had been filled with people laughing and mocking and spitting out hatred. It was empty, and I embraced the emptiness like an old friend who understands your pain when no one else can.

Now, for the first time since the day Jesus had called me, I could no longer feel Him beside me. I was alone. So very much alone.

The guard was asleep, and soon I was outside the city. Golgotha was nearby; from the city gate you could already smell the lingering death. I didn’t really want to see it, but something outside of myself had brought me back.

The path was still muddy from the storm. I tripped on the wet stones in the dark. I prayed that a bolt of lightning would strike me down and end my wretched misery.

But soon I was there-and that ugly stand of wood was still there. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep my eyes from traveling up that post, to the crossbeam that was still in place.

God in heaven! My heart was ripped in two by what I saw-the spikes still there, still embedded in the wood and still painted with His blood. I couldn’t look on that cross without seeing the dying body of Jesus. I know. I was there.

I knew the cross was empty-I knew He was no longer there, but He was! He was.

My eyes filled with horror as I realized my responsibility in the death of Jesus.

Peter. The Rock. It seems like such a joke now. Why did my Lord give me such a nickname? I put Him there. My cowardice put Him there.

I wept with shame.

Then it hit me…..I worked through my jumbled, tortured thoughts…..my heart was telling me that I alone was responsible for His death, but that would mean Jesus died only for me. And that’s not what He said. He said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

No, we all put Him there. The soldiers drove the spikes, but we all held Him down so they could. And we all were pulling on that rope that lifted Him into place. We all left Him to die alone-stripped of His friend, stripped of His dignity.

Jesus died for all of us-not just me. We’re all guilty of the sins for which He died.

It was an ugly way to die, but then,

He died for ugly things, didn’t He. There’s no pleasant way to die for the sins of all humanity.

Most of life for many of us is like this Saturday, living in a place between His death and resurrection. We are in a terrible position, but we have a promise from God that we only half believe. It’s after the doctor tells us we have cancer, but before we are cured or find new depth of faith to cope with it. It’s after the relationship breaks up, but before God heals the grief. It’s after we have been laid off, but before God uses our gifts in a new place. Most of life is Saturday. It’s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through in spite of how bad things look.

That day was spent in grief and reflection. I could not bear to view the cross any longer, so I went off to be by myself.

I thought back to that day when Jesus fed the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Immediately after the meal, Jesus made us get into the boat and go ahead to the other side. He went by Himself to pray. Later that night, Jesus walked on the water towards the boat. One of us, I can’t remember who, yelled, “It’s a ghost!” Jesus immediately told us, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” I said, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then I got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when I saw the wind, I became very afraid and I began to sink. I cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught me. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?” I know. It happened to me.

I beg of you now friends, learn from me! Do you want to know why I slept when Jesus asked me to pray? Do you want to know why I denied Him? The same reason I began to sink that day in the sea. I took my eyes off Him for one moment and I began to sink. So I ask you now brothers and sisters, have you taken your eyes off Jesus? Learn from me! Take heed in what I say! You can sink like I did if you take your eyes off the Lord even for a moment. Taking your eyes off Him will take you away from being the Rock He wants you to be. Do not avert your eyes even for a moment! Keep your eyes focused on the Lord each and every day. Learn from me!

One thought on “The Dark Before the Dawn (Saturday)

  1. Thank you Pastor Phil. I’m really enjoying these reading from your website. The story format of them is very uplifting and enjoyable. They bring to mind a concept that is both personal and educational. I’m looking forward to reading tomorrow’s on the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love you and pray you and your family are doing well and staying safe during these difficult times.

    Like

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