The Denial

The orange-red flames licked the blackness around them, illuminating faces, some angry, some sad. It was a very dark night, clouds hiding what little moon shone, a few stars peeking out curiously. Snuffed torches lean against the white stone walls, leaving black smudges. More blackness in this tired world.

Onlookers stand around the courtyard, some squat, some sit by the fire. The air smells acrid without a breeze to carry away smoke. Everyone is silent as they strain to hear the mumbling voices inside. The distressed and the outraged both listening; both hearing shouts of "blasphemy!" and "prophesy"; both hoping for different outcomes.

Women watched, tears streaming down faces, hopes unraveling before their eyes. Men stone-faced, trying to hide emotion, some hoping to conceal allegiance altogether.

Wishing to be invisible.

He wanted to be there, he wanted to see everything, but he didn't want to be noticed. He felt like maybe he was blending in with the crowd of onlookers, not drawing any unnecessary attention. Until a young girl started looking him up and down. Staring, unabashedly. Like she only needed one more facial expression to confirm her suspicions.

He blinked. Then heard her say, a little too loudly,
"You were with Him too. You are one of His friends."

No way! Not a chance! What are you talking about? Who do you think I am? You think I would hang out with HIM?
His response was way over the top, reeking of defensiveness. Everyone stared, wondering. He calmed himself, deep-breathing to steady his nerves, leaning over to hide his face.

Frustrated with himself, annoyed by the inquisition, trying to listen to the trial...then not many minutes later, another question,
"I know it, it's a sure thing...I've seen you with Him!"
And forgetting his so recent remorse, he impulsively replies,
"I swear that I don't know that man!!"
Defeated, head in hands, he considers leaving. But he looks up, sees someone spit in Jesus' face, hears people cheering and watches fists shaking and suddenly feels suspended in time...everything slow motion.

And then one word at a time filters through the time warp, low and droning, bringing him back to the present.
"Of course you know that man, we can see it all over your face. You way you deny it speaks for itself!"
He stands up, voice raised, words come fast and strong,
"Leave me alone -- I'm telling you the truth. I DON'T KNOW HIM!"
The rooster crows. Their eyes meet.

Flashbacks flood his mind as he looks into Jesus' sad eyes.
"I will make you fishers of men"
"Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother, my sister, and my mother."
"Peace be still."
"Who do you say that I am?"
You are my Savior. The Messiah. The Son of the Living God. {Matthew 16}
I will never leave You. Even though all the rest do. I would die with you! {Matthew 26}  
The tears stream down his cheeks, blinding him as he stumbles out of the courtyard into even darker night. Grief tears. Disappointment tears. Tears of embarrassment. Of self-reproach.

And Jesus cries too. For Peter. For the other disciples. For the persecuting crowd.

For the whole world.