The following is the third of a series of posts which offer an alternative view of Holy Week. A warning: this is just a wacky exercise of creative writing that asks the question, “What if it had all happened like this?”
A wood fire shot sparks into the night air, as shadows played on the distant Wailing Wall. A group of Jerusalem peasants were toasting Jesus’ merry band of mercenaries, and singing old Maccabean revolutionary songs.
For the first time in several days, the disciples felt like they could relax. The city had been completely secured, and every last Roman soldier or sympathizer had been either executed or locked up in a holding cell underground.
Just as Jesus had predicted, after the initial invasion and take-over of the Temple, the shocked Roman guard had momentarily retreated. While they regrouped at their garrison near the Jordan River, hundreds of young Israeli men had flooded into the city to join the uprising. They brought weapons, armor, supplies, and food.
The Romans were clearly caught on their back heels. They didn’t know quite what to do next.
The longer they waited, the longer Jesus had to stabilize his control.
That was the subject on Peter’s mind that night as he sat near the fire on the edge of the Green Zone. Everyone else was getting drunk on the wine which Jesus kept creating out of the endless stone jars of water that they kept dragging to him.
But Peter kept a clear head. He needed to keep an eye on things. He didn’t want things to get out of control. Jesus was counting on him. At least, that’s what he told himself.
He liked to think that he was Jesus’ right hand man, but these days he wasn’t sure. John had weaseled himself awfully close to Jesus lately. And Judas, the money-keeper, was increasingly important to the daily operations.
And then there were the consultants that Jesus brought in from overseas. They brought a critical tactical eye to the proceedings, but they weren’t Middle Eastern. They were responsible for the post-invasion plans, but they didn’t know a thing about Jewish politics or religion.
As Peter mused, Chuck sauntered over and asked if he could have a seat.
“Why aren’t you celebrating with your friends?” Chuck asked.
Peter shrugged. “I’m afraid it’s a little early for that,” he said. “We have lots of work to do before we’re a free country.”
“Indeed,” said Chuck. “But so far, so good. I think Jesus might very well be the right guy for the job this time.”
Peter shot him a sharp look. “This time?”
Chuck laughed. “This is my fourth attempted revolution in Israel. I’ve been around a lot of Messiahs. Most of them were nothing but half-baked lunatics who spent too much time in the desert. But this one is different.”
“Of course,” Peter snapped. “He is the real Messiah, the Son of God.”
Chuck kept quiet. He didn’t dare challenge Peter. But he didn’t agree with him either. Instead, he sat in the silence.
Peter flushed with anger, and continued. “The problem is that he’s surrounded himself with a bunch of idiots. I don’t know why he listens to all these soldiers from Africa and oil executives and security experts.”
Chuck nodded. “I thought Jesus had a pretty good core group of advisers around him, like you and those other eleven guys.”
“They’re not all that special,” he said. “Most of them are just simple fishermen from the backwoods. He used to listen to me — I have my ear close to the ground in these parts. But now he spends most of his time with the consultants.”
He was getting worked up now, but before he could say something he would later regret, he caught sight of a figure walking briskly through the courtyard.
It was Jesus.
Peter stood up quickly. Here’s my chance, he thought to himself.
“Jesus, wait! I need to talk to you,” he said. Jesus looked at him, and without breaking stride, motioned to him to join him.
Chuck watched in amusement. “Good luck with all that,” he thought to himself.
Peter ran to keep pace with Jesus, who had already turned down a darkened market street.
Jesus strode purposefully, his eyes set forward, gleaming.
“Yes, Peter?” said Jesus.
“Lord, I just want to know what’s going on,” Peter said. “I feel a little out of the loop, but I want you to know that I’m willing to do whatever you want — anything!”
Jesus kept walking, though he slowed just a bit. “Ummm, OK. I appreciate that.”
Peter was not satisfied.
“Lord, why are you cutting me out of the leadership?” he said sharply. “You gave me the nickname — ‘Peter the Rock’! For three years, I have been your most trustworthy ally. I was with you on the mountain that day with Moses and Elijah. I walked on the water with you. You believe in me. You need me!”
Jesus stopped and turned to face Peter.
“Peter, I appreciate everything that you have done,” he said with a stony face. “But don’t you ever dare suggest that I need you. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone, because I have the blessing of my Father and the strength of his arm.”
A shudder went through Peter. “I’m sorry, Lord,” he said in a whisper. “But please … put me to the test. Let me prove myself to you.”
Jesus gazed at him fiercely. Then he suddenly pointed to the side of the road.
“See that fig tree?” he said.
Peter turned and saw a scrawny tree in a family garden. It couldn’t have been very old, planted only very recently.
“It’s not much of a tree, is it?” asked Jesus.
“Well, it’s young,” muttered Peter.
Jesus strode right over to the tree, reached down and pulled it from the ground, roots and all, then flung it at Peter’s feet.
“It’s young, alright,” Jesus said. “And it’s vulnerable, easily plundered. Just like the revolution. Nothing is secure yet. We don’t have deep roots yet. We have not yet planted the kingdom firmly in this land. And so everything is at risk. I’m sorry, but I can’t really trust anyone. Everyone is suspect. Everyone is a potential traitor.”
Peter persisted. “After all we’ve gone through these past three years, you say you don’t trust me, Jesus?”
“Especially not you,” said Jesus softly. Then he turned and continued walking down the street.
Peter slumped to the ground, next to the pitiful wilted fig tree, and began to softly cry. In the distance, a lone rooster began to crow.
TO BE CONTINUED