I don’t see Peter’s name in the narrative from just after his denial through the details of Jesus’ crucifixion. I don’t think he wanted to be seen. I doubt he wanted to be found. “Just leave me alone.”
The hours between Calvary and Sunday morning were three of the most difficult days and nights Jesus’ followers could endure. They were filled with one thing. Intense Grief. For Peter —and Judas— it included shame as well.
Shame is an acutely painful emotion, caused by the constant awareness that you have done something dishonorable, and no matter what you try, you just can’t seem to get it off your hands.
Thursday night. Shame . (I doubt Peter slept. I think Judas probably figured out how he was going to kill himself.)
All day Friday. Shame.
Friday night. More of the same.
Saturday. Intense shame. A silent sabbath.
Saturday night. Shame that mixed with sleep deprivation to make for fitful sleep. Maybe a little.
- Shame sends a person into emotional exile. Into seclusion.
- Shame sends a guy home from market by way of the back streets and allies.
- Shame lays like a damp blanket over a person’s dreams and suffocates the last little bit of hope that remains.
- Shame hangs your stomach upside down and dares you to touch it.
- Shame steals an inch from your height and stoops your shoulders.
- Shame siphons off your energy and makes you shuffle from here to there. The spring in your step is grounded until further notice.
- Shame scrawls “-less” on post-it notes, slaps them up after things that used to characterize you. Hope-less. faith-less. worth-less. Then it sits across the room and forbids you to take them down; watches to be sure you don’t.
- Shame steals your song and isn’t interested in hearing anyone else’s.
- Shame is relentless. It follows you everywhere. It stares back at you from the bathroom mirror and points out your flaws. All of them.
- Shame taunts you with thoughts of what was –or would have been– and is no more.
- Shame calls you names – and rightfully so.
- Shame tells you you’re not worth the time of day.
If you’ve ever been where Peter is, you know the overwhelming sense of helplessness that travels with shame. Everybody you know knows what you’ve done, and those who don’t have heard about it. You don’t want to show your face ever again – anywhere. It’s a silent pain that eats at you like emotional cancer, and nothing helps. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Thursday – Shame
Thursday night – Shame
All day Friday. Shame.
Friday night. Shame.
Saturday. A Shame-filled sabbath.
Saturday night. Shame.
Somewhere in there Peter may have heard that Judas killed himself and may have shrugged “I can see why”. His friend John made sure he stuck close to make sure Peter didn’t follow suit. Friends are that way. They look out for you when you’re at you’re lowest.
I can picture them arranging to go for a walk early Sunday morning, John’s idea. “C’mon. Let’s go for a walk.”
Peter agrees to go if it’s before people are up so they don’t see anyone, and John comes over before dawn. He says hello with a man-to-man hug and asks “How you doin’?” but doesn’t expect an answer. They walk in silence, Peter’s hands stuffed deep into his pockets. A figure approaches. A woman. It looks like she’s in a hurry.
“John, let’s turn down this way”.
But John recognizes her and says “Hold on a sec'”
“I said ‘hold ON a sec’ !” and he stops and waits for her.
I can picture Peter half-turning away and looking at the ground. It’s Mary Magdalene and she runs right up to them. Now what?! Just leave me alone.
In This Series:
- St Peter and Holy Week – Intro
- Peter, Self-Reliance and Overconfidence
- Peter’s Collapse
- Peter’s Shame
- Peter’s Relief
- Peter’s Resolve
- Peter’s Forgiveness
- Peter – The Tender and Understanding (forthcoming)