A Short Story for FREEdom from MEdom Project by Steven Gledhill
His countenance was captivating. The first time I met this man and my eyes met his I could sense there was something special about him. He was a leader—a winner. I just knew that about him. We all did. When he spoke to me and my friends, his disposition was so friendly and his voice oozed sincerity. We’d been fishing all night and had a pretty good catch. We had just cleaned out our boats when the man approached the group of us. He took an interest in what we were doing, asked a few questions about our business, families and so on. He could tell we were quite busy, so after a bit of friendly conversation he politely excused himself and went his way.
He would come back around every couple of days and we would talk some more. My friends were also drawn to this man and quickly we identified him as a friend, as we believe he did with us. But then he quit coming around. After some time—thinking back, maybe a month and a half or so—he came around again but not the time he usually did. This time there was something different about him. He looked a little different. He had thinned out a bit, as if he hadn’t been eating for awhile; looking kind of malnourished. But he didn’t carry himself as though he was physically weak. He expressed himself with an inner strength and confidence I hadn’t really seen in him before.
It was also unusually early in the morning. It was still pretty dark out. We had just come in from work. We had a really bad night. We didn’t catch a thing. We had brought our boats in and had started the chore of cleaning them. I should mention as well that he’d become kind of famous or something because there were a bunch of folks on the beach with him. Then he hopped into my boat and said, “I have a thought…why don’t you go back out and cast your nets on the other side of your boats into the deeper water.”
What was he talking about? Why would he ask that? Had he been to a fishing seminar since we saw him last and learned something new about our industry? He had been working with wood building and fixing stuff. It was an unusual request asking us to go back out. You would think I would have felt insulted by this but in this case, from him, I was alright. We had come to respect this guy a great deal and he just had a way about him; like he was an authority on everything. You know the type. Except there wasn’t even a scent of arrogance from this man. He was just someone who had a way of influencing people; not as a manner of manipulation but because everything he said made so much sense to all of us.
So we did what he said. Not expecting anything, we went back out and threw our nets into the deeper water. Then it happened. Fish were literally diving into our nets as if they wanted to be caught and eaten. Hundreds, thousands of large lively fish flopping everywhere in both boats. It was awesome! Then it got scary. We had so many fish in our nets that we felt the massive weight of these fish pulling the boats down. You could hear our nets starting to rip and we wondered if we might actually sink from too much fish. We even tried unloading some fish back into the sea but they were jumping into our nets faster than we could dump them out so we agreed to get our boats to shore as quickly as we could.
We saw Jesus standing on the shore with this look on his face like he was completely responsible for this. Again, it was not a look of “I told you so” arrogance. It was a look of assurance, like an athlete who absolutely knows he will do something amazing because he can, and because if you’re on his team, you need him to. We had enough fish to sell to the merchants that we could live on these earnings for a few years, it was that substantial—that unbelievable. Then he said to us: “Come with me.” We didn’t even ask what he was talking about or where he was going. We knew he had the Spirit of God somehow in some way. There was no other way to explain it.
I explained to my wife and children what had happened that day. We all agreed that he must be the One chosen by God to lead his people from our brutal oppressor—to pilot the revolution. What I hadn’t told my wife yet was that I’d already given Jesus my word that I would go with him. When I told her that he had asked me to be an important part of his team, she said, “Go! He has been provident in seeing that we have means to flourish in your absence. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime that will change the course of history for our people.”
So I went with him. So did my friends James and John. Over the next couple of years, the crowds grew. When he said we would be fishers of men he wasn’t kidding around. There were twelve of us that you might say were in his inner circle, but there were dozens if not hundreds of folks that followed him everywhere. He called us disciples. Everywhere we went the word had gone ahead of us that Jesus was coming, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of people with their entire families would gather to hear him speak. Then he would amaze the crowds with miracles.
He healed people of their injuries and afflictions. I mean for some people it was severe. Some were healed of blindness. Others who’d been paralyzed were walking and running again. We knew a lot of these folks and they’d been messed up for a long time before Jesus came along. People who were insane and whose minds were inhabited by demons were set free. It was never ever unremarkable. You never got used to someone being healed or set free. Jesus showed compassion on every single one of them. One woman made a particular impression on him, and Mary followed us everywhere we went. You might say she became an important player on the team. She had a soldier’s mentality having fought her demons for so many years. If there was ever a woman who could keep up with us men, she was it.
Then, when you thought you’d seen it all, Jesus stepped it up a notch. Some rich guy came to him because his daughter was gravely ill. Jesus said he’d go with him, that his daughter would be healed. Along the way to the rich guy’s mansion, Jesus just stopped dead in his tracks amidst a flurry of commotion. He said, “Power just left me.” What? When I asked him what he meant he said, “Someone touched me and power left me.” There were people bumping and slamming into him all over the place. I didn’t get it but Jesus turned and looked for someone. There she was. Some woman we had all known to be unclean with disease was just standing there until Jesus approached her. Then she fell to her knees, literally trembling. He proceeded to privately whisper something into her ear. Then there she went, eyes glistening with obvious tears of joy as she grinned with a thrilled look on her face.
Sadly, one of the rich guy’s servants came and said to him, “Don’t bother the healer it’s too late; your daughter is dead.” Jesus said to Jairus, “Trust me, she’s only asleep… let’s go to your house.” This wouldn’t be just another healing. Trust me; this little girl really was dead. She couldn’t have been older than twelve. Jesus threw everybody out of the room except her parents and a few of us. To the doctors and nurses and all the cynical medical personnel the rich guy could afford, Jesus said, “Out!” He then prayed. We could hear him quietly ask God (Jesus called Him ‘Father’) for the authority to raise the dead. I started freaking out. My knees got weak. Raise the dead, are you kidding me? He did it. It was stunning—miraculous.
Jesus could raise the dead! He had that kind of connection with our Creator. He’d do it again later when he raised his friend Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus had been dead for three days. He didn’t even stink when he came out. It was a microcosm of sorts of what we believed about the revolution—that after hundreds of years of tragic oppression and persecution at the hand of the Romans, Jesus would raise us up against seemingly impossible odds to victory and freedom. I mean nothing was impossible for him. He even had authority over the weather. He fed thousands of people—twice—with just a handful of bread and a couple of fish.
There was even that night when we thought for sure we would be overcome on our boat by a ferocious storm. He wasn’t with us for some reason and we thought for sure we would die. It was truly scary. Then as lightning would flash upon the sea, there was a man out there, actually on the water–not in the water, on the water. Thinking we were seeing things… all of us having the same delusion during the plight of our demise? I called out, “Lord if it’s you, command me to come to you!” I was desperate and going to die so why not call out to the imaginary man on the water. A voice called back, “Come on over, Peter, it’s me!”
The imaginary man actually shouted back a response? And he knows my name? I’m going to die anyway so I climbed out the boat and kind of jumped in. Except, it was more like I jumped on. I was wet but I was not sinking. I walked out to whom I eventually recognized to be Jesus. Just as a really big gust of wind kicked up I was splashed hard in the face by a blast of water. I panicked and dropped like a rock. I reached up as I sank and screamed frantically, “Jesus!” He caught me and lifted me up and, as I clutched onto his arm as if my life depended on it (since it did), we walked on water…I said, WE WALKED ON WATER back to the boat. He told me later that as he was reaching into the water to pull me up that his Father (God) was reaching down to him, and Jesus said to me, “I hold onto Him because my life depends on it.”
Over time a number of the hundreds of followers of Jesus fell away as he would say things that were too difficult to accept; you know like eating his flesh and drinking his blood kind of stuff. His heart broke each time one of whom had become his flock of sheep would leave looking for an easier way. He even asked the twelve of us once, “Are you going to leave me too?” Are you kidding? The bigger picture was the revolution; something most of our people didn’t have the where-with-all to follow through with. They were angry and terribly dissatisfied with the way things were under this evil regime. There was no escaping it. But it was as though remaining in their “Egypt” was easier than what it would take to become brothers in arms with the One we had come to fully believe was our Savior—our Messiah—who would walk in front of our army against the Roman army the way David walked in front of the Israeli army, going on to slay Goliath. We were poised to take on our Goliath with Jesus channeling the presence of God. There was no doubt that our time was coming.
The tenor of our mood changed in the coming weeks as Jesus would talk about how he had to die for all men to be free. This did not set well with me. As it happens, on more than one occasion, Malchus, a deputy of the High Priest, would shout out to me, “We’re coming for your messiah” after Jesus would perform a miracle, or heal someone on the Sabbath, or make claims to be the Son of God, or make fools of the priests and Pharisees.
Recently, Jesus had gone into the temple and was infuriated by what he saw. He couldn’t take it anymore. Merchants would take advantage of my people as they would grossly inflate prices for livestock that we would purchase to sacrifice at the altar as atonement for our selfish mistakes. Jesus went in and literally started turning this place upside down. Tables went flying. Doves went flying. You could hear coins jingling around all over the place from all the money getting knocked around. Then Jesus took aim at the Pharisees and scribes. In front of thousands during Passover he called out the official leaders of our people as sanctioned by the Romans. He called them what they are: hypocrites and blind guides. I mean he was ruthless in his blunt description of the truth of these men that used religion to control the people. Jesus grew up in it, and by now had had his fill of their blatant hypocrisy.
If they had a problem with Jesus before; now they were done with him. Malchus shouted out to me again, “We’re coming for him, and there is nothing you can do about it.” I thought to myself and then whispered to John, “We’ll see about that. Malchus just made the list. We’ll see who gets who.”
We were all sitting together, the thirteen of us. There was a secret place we could go to get away. Jesus, looking around at each of us asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?” I said, “Lord, you are the Christ… You’re our David who will lead the revolution to victory.” He answered me, “The Spirit of God is alive in you.” But then not long after that he was talking about dying again. This time I’d had enough and said emphatically, “No! The revolution needs you. You’re our David, you cannot die! Let Malchus take me (as much as I hate that man).” Then Jesus said something that shook me to the core that is still rattling around in my deflated spirit. “Get behind me Satan,” he said. “In fact, you will deny knowing me three times before dawn when the rooster crows.” That messed me up. I cannot let it go. One minute I had the spirit of God and the next the spirit of Satan?
Later that night, as we honored the Passover, my Lord, with a pan of water and a rag, started washing our feet, and after rebuking me yet again for something I said about how it should be me washing his feet, he began saying more things I didn’t really understand that seemed to imply that he had to become least and die in order to serve and fully restore his people. Wanting desperately to lose the Satan complex I’d developed, with tears in my eyes as my voice quivered, I said, “Then Lord, wash all of me so that I can be clean.” I so needed him to make me right with him. He said, “No, Peter, only your feet are dirty.” Then, when he said one of us would betray him, I thought that surely he was talking about me. He said I’d deny knowing him, and he called me Satan. I was losing it! Then Judas slipped out. What was up with that?
Just an hour or so ago, I woke up to a small army of armed Roman soldiers—hundreds of them—who showed up for a fight. Here we were, David versus Goliath. There was Malchus, leading the way just as he said he would. Jesus then asked them, “Who are you looking for?” Jesus didn’t look right. He hadn’t been eating well the last few days. The stress he was under had stripped him of his appetite. Still awakening from my few hours of slumber, I noticed that Jesus had blots of blood on his clothing and he seemed to have bled from within. It was striking what what I was seeing.
Malchus didn’t seem to recognize the man he had determined to capture. He responded, “We’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I AM he.” Next, I saw our David rise up against Goliath as Malchus and his entire army of Roman troops stumbled back and fell to the ground as if a tempest wind had burst upon them. You could hear soldiers falling in the shadows beyond our sight as they all went down. I was seething. It was our call to arms. I reached and pulled out my sword; like David I was going to chop off the head of Goliath as he lay defenseless on the ground. I swung at Malchus with my sword and missed my mark except that I clipped his ear as he ducked from my wild attack. Jesus jumped in front of me before I could finish the job. “I want to kill them all; Judas too,” I said to him.
In the last hour, Jesus has allowed his captors to get up and they’ve taken him under arrest. My friends ran into the night accept for John. I guess John has connections with temple servants such as yourself. So I’m trying to answer your question. I stand here watching these so-called officials of justice torture and mutilate Jesus. Goliath is having his way with David. Where is God? Is this not our time? Is the revolution dying with the man we called “Lord”? Were we mistaken? He called me Satan? He has betrayed me. He has betrayed us all.
So to answer your question, “Wasn’t I also with Jesus?” I don’t know that man.
“Hey guys; over here!” “Look who’s here.” It’s one of those fools who walked around all high and mighty like he was better than us.”
I’m telling you, I don’t know that man anymore. He’s changed. He’s not who I thought he was.
“In fact, you were pretty obnoxious. You thought you were really something. But look at your messiah now. He’s not looking too good; and neither are you.”
I can’t take anymore of this! Damn you and me both! I don’t know that man! He betrayed us all. We’re all fools, no more than fodder for the bully Romans. We’re all lost! Can’t you see that? There is no hope!
Then, the rooster crowed and Jesus was led right past Peter where they locked glances. Peter’s heart broke. Three years of his life and the hopes and dreams of his people were dying with Jesus. How could he just give up like that? Where was his courage? And the heart of Jesus, a misunderstood servant, broke as he understood what was in Peter’s heart.
This is a fictional story adapted from the non-fictional account in Scripture. For the rest of the non-fictional story, refer to Restoration Trifecta.