Before the Cock Crows

The second of our two Easter Eye-Witnesses, bringing to a close a series of 7 monologues delivered by various friends as part of our Holy Week Services at the Agape Centre.









It was half a world away from here and half a lifetime ago, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. The day that changed my life forever, even though I didn’t realise it at the time… the day that changed the world, even though the world hasn’t yet woken up to the fact…
I had barely woken up… The cock had just crowed, bringing the memories of two mornings before flooding back… The shame at being proved a coward… Realising how hollow all my brave words at the dinner table had been… That he knew… he knew everything…
He had been warning us for ages that it would happen, but none of us believed him.
“If anyone would follow me he must take up his cross and follow me...” I didn’t think he meant it literally…
“I’ll follow in your footsteps wherever you go… even to death itself!” I said… And all the others said the same. But he warned me I would deny even knowing him before the cock crowed the next day…
Who did I think I was fooling? I’m always the same... Full of bold words... But when it came down to it, I was always scared... Scared stiff... Like that time on the sea when he walked on the water... I wanted to follow him... But when I was out on the water I was scared witless... I had to call to Jesus to save me...
And that night I was just as scared... more... I made great play of trying to save Jesus from the soldiers when they came for him in the garden… Waving my sword around like I knew what to do with it… But I was terrified, and when Jesus told me to put it away, after I had lopped some poor guy’s ear off, all pretence at courage evaporated…
I did follow Jesus down to the High Priest’s palace… I tried to blend in to the crowd in the courtyard, but there were too many people there who had seen me with him in the previous week… They kept on asking if I was one of his followers… I was terrified that they would call the temple guards… Finally I lost my temper, I swore at them and said I had nothing to do with Jesus…
And that’s when the cock crowed… Just as Jesus was being led out of the palace to be taken for questioning elsewhere… He looked at me… Not judging me… But with that deep sense of compassion that he always had for the hurting, the lost, the losers of society… There he was, beaten, bloodied and bound, looking at me with pity… Somehow he knew what had just happened…
And that was it… I ran out of the courtyard found a deep dark corner, and wept... My heart had broken into a million pieces… I stayed there most of the day, terrified that the soldiers would find me and drag me off to wherever they had taken Jesus…
It was only when I made my way back to the upper room later that night that I found out what had happened… John told me… he was the only one who had followed Jesus to the end…
I couldn’t believe it… This was how it was all to end!? This was what I had given up the fishing for!? We stayed in the room right the way through the Sabbath… We were all there… family and followers… all except Judas… No-one had seen him since the garden… and a good job too…
It may have been the Sabbath, the Passover Sabbath, but there was no celebration… no prayers… we all felt as if God had abandoned us… Night fell again and I slept fitfully at first… But eventually exhaustion got the better of me and I was in such a deep sleep that I didn’t even realise that some of the women had gone out to the tomb where they had laid Jesus’ body…
But then the cock crowed again and it all came flooding back… A waking nightmare… made worse by Mary of Magdala coming rushing in, screaming and shouting about Jesus’ body being missing… John and I took off like Greek athletes... Well, John did, I trailed along in his wake, but when we got to the tomb I pushed him out of the way... and found that Mary was right... there was no body... But it didn’t look like someone had stolen the body... It looked more like Jesus had got up after a good night’s sleep, taken off his shroud and folded it up neatly like a nightgown... He always was neat... Liked things done properly...
I didn’t understand… I didn’t understand any of it… His death… the missing body… I wasn’t certain about what I had seen, but somehow a cloud had lifted... It was like beginnings of the dawn… I had vague memories of Jesus talking about rising on the third day... And then later, when Mary rushed in again, this time jabbering about having seen Jesus, while others said she was mad, that she was possessed again... Did I tell you about her and the seven demons Jesus cast out of her... No? That was quite a story, but it’ll have to wait for another time... But anyway, the others thought she had lost the plot... but I wasn’t so sure...
That night, was when we first saw him again… the first of many times… many experiences that changed me from that man denied his master into the man you see before you here today, here in Rome… At the centre of the empire that crucified my master… and is to crucify me before another cock-crows… Today I literally take up my cross and make good my boast to follow in his footsteps even to death itself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared, but the events of those three days half a world away and half a life time ago have convinced me that death is not the end of the journey with Jesus…

Prayer
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may be strengthened to walk with him in his risen life
to the glory of his name. AMEN

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