I happen upon rare finds now and then in my occasional trips to used bookstores. The following, as best I can tell, is an excerpt from the Apostle Peter’s personal journal. How it came to be in my possession I am not at liberty to discuss. I do hope, however, you find it as compelling and disarming, as have I.
Below, I have included part of the passage in Mark 14 vv. 66-72, which I believe provides the context to which this journal entry refers.
“And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.”
I was scared. My world had already been turned around with His arrival. “Follow Me!” He had said. So I had. How could I have known what was in store? This…this was unthinkable! He couldn’t die. What about His promises? What about the kingdom? I thought He was Messiah!
Everyone fled. Why shouldn’t they? Romans played for keeps. Me? I wanted to see what would happen. Things weren’t going the way I had hoped. I just needed time to think. But they kept pestering me. It seemed as if all eyes were on me, accusing eyes waiting to turn me in too. I had to disagree with them. What good was I to Jesus if I were under arrest? No, I needed to buy some time…. Then the cock crowed. Three times I had the opportunity to stand by my word–three times I chose not to.
I wept the night away. Fear, shame, guilt, and anguish of soul accompanied me as I wandered into the night. These companions offered no encouragement or restitution, only accusation. Each pointed a long, bony finger in my face, taunting me mercilessly.
“Look what you’ve done now.”
“And you call yourself a disciple.”
“At least fishing is an honest trade.”
Tormenting voices haunted me, leaving no place to hide. Pulling at my hair I screamed to drown them out, yet to no avail. Like a river raging out of control my tears gushed on. Oh God, can I ever be forgiven? What will become of me!
Don’t You hear me? Have I been forsaken?
Fear gripped me. As the echo of my voice faded into the distance, I was left to think in silence. Increasing with every heartbeat, terror gripped my throat. What if I have been forsaken? Can I be forgiven?
I began to weep with renewed intensity.
I doubt there was immediate resolve that night once the well of tears ran dry. How often I, too, wonder where God’s grace ends and punishment begins? “Surely He won’t forgive that!” I suspect and quietly perform penances begging forgiveness. “If He just understood; it was a mistake.” So, I slip into the belief that what I need most is understanding. That, if He only understood why I did something or acted that way He would give me another chance.
I too easily forget that what I need and long for most is forgiveness not understanding. I need a forgiveness that says, ‘No matter what your debt, you are not hated.’ Forgiveness brings me face to face with mercy and grace. Understanding only works to let me get away with more in my heart. A few days after his betrayal, Peter got a good glimpse of this very thing.
“And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter also… “(Mark 16:6-7a emphasis mine)