The cock crowed twice. I had betrayed him three times. He looked at me with such understanding and love that it pierced me to the heart, a heart that felt as though it would break. He had been so good to me, putting up with my blustering and my efforts to captain my crew even when we were not on board my fishing boat. It is hard to give up command just because I have moved back on land.
Of course, I had sworn undying loyalty and had been desperately offended when he foretold my betrayal. How could he have thought that I would not stand by him to the bitter end?
My attempt to defend him was so weak and ineffective. What could I achieve by cutting off a man’s ear, and only a servant at that?
I followed him at a distance. I denied him three times and then, as he was taken out of the courtyard, he looked at me and, for the first time in my life, I saw myself as I truly am: weak, boastful, blundering and a coward. I couldn’t bear the sight of myself, but even more, I couldn’t bear his glance of mingled compassion, sorrow and love.
I went out into the darkness and I wept until I thought my heart would break. The other disciples found me. Only John had had the courage to follow the Master to Calvary. Only he and the women had stood at the foot of the Cross. The rest of us had fled, afraid that we might also be taken prisoner and condemned to the same bitter end. From the very early hours of Friday morning, we’ve stayed in this room, sharing our fear and our guilt. We’ve been a sorry pack of miserable, cowardly traitors, full of “If only…” But there wasn’t an “If only…” We were scared and we ran, leaving Jesus alone to his dreadful fate… and I was the first and the greatest of the cowards, for I was the one who had promised to be faithful unto death… …and now, the Magdalen stands before us. She speaks of an empty tomb, a tomb that I haven’t even seen because I didn’t have the courage to escort the women, was to afraid to stand by his mother in her hour of greatest need.
If the tomb is empty and the body of Jesus is indeed stolen, then mine is the greatest guilt. The captain has to take the responsibility, but then I’m taking the responsibility, not only for my crew, but for my own cowardice.
Yet the Magdalen is speaking something I dare not think might be true. She is saying that Jesus lives. How could that happen? He died. John has described every last detail. Jesus died. Nobody dies and comes back to life… or do they? Is Jesus of Nazareth truly Lord? Has Jesus risen from the dead? Is that the truth behind the empty tomb? Can I dare hope…?