The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Part 2
The cup. When had Jesus mentioned that before?
It was that day, long ago, or so it seemed, when my brother and I had requested the place of honor in the Lord’s kingdom.
You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink this cup that I am going to drink?
“Of course we can!” I answered blithely, ignoring His skeptical tone.
But Jesus hadn’t seemed convinced.
He had made many cryptic references like that–to His cup, execution in Jerusalem, and to His hour. The day the Greeks came to see Him had been particularly striking to me. I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Everything He had done tonight–and refused to do–supported those words. He acted as if He had a purpose to fulfill. But what could it be? If He was the Son of God, as I truly believed He was, why did He allow the Sanhedrin to arrest him like a common criminal? Why would our faith be shaken?
If, like He had said at supper, the devil had no power over Him, then why must it be the “hour of the power of darkness”?
A hand touched my shoulder, jolting me out of my reverie. “John, it’s me!” Peter whispered.
I sagged with relief.
“The others have all run off–probably when the mob entered the garden,”he continued anxiously. “I can’t find James, either.”
Sifted like wheat.
“John, won’t you answer me?”
Drawing a deep breath, I stood up. With the hellish glare of torches gone, the garden was once again dark and silent as if its peace had never been disturbed. “Peter, what will they do to Him?”
He kicked at the dirt. “I don’t know.”
“There are rumors all over the city,” I persisted. “The Pharisees want Him dead!” I gritted my teeth, emboldened by the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. “Peter, we must go to Him.”
“Let’s go and see what’s happening,” I urged. “At the high priest’s house. They’ve all gone now–we may get through the city unseen.”
We ran stealthily across the valley. Soon we saw torches bobbing in the distance, the tail end of the mob, filing in through the city gate. Warily, Peter and I followed, slipping inside the walls at a safe distance.
A deluge of curious spectators poured out from every alleyway, feeding the mob until it swelled and threatened to burst the narrow, dusty streets. Trampled and shoved in every direction, Peter and I struggled on, eventually fighting our way into the Upper City, the wealthy side of Jerusalem. The streets, lined with white marble villas, widened considerably here, easing the rest of the trip to Caiaphas’ palace.
The maidservant, who knew my family, let us in the gate, and we soon joined the throng cramming the rectangular courtyard–slaves, guards, and countless other spectators. Shifting my feet uneasily on the flagstones, I scanned the sea of faces, hoping we wouldn’t be recognized. Once satisfied that we were as anonymous as anybody else, I glanced at Peter, remembering our purpose. “The Sanhedrin can’t convene at night!” I hissed. “Have they no fear of Pilate?”
“What else would they be doing?” he hissed back. He paused, rubbing his arms vigorously. “I’m going to warm up over by that fire. Do you want to come?”
“No,”I muttered, my unease returning. The charcoal fire in the corner looked inviting but not nearly inviting enough to tempt me. “We ought to stay out of the light and blend in.”
Peter, always the impulsive one, ignored me.
This was going to be a long night. Praying Peter would keep his head, I edged a bit closer to the front, trying to get a better view. Even from my distance, I recognized Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas conferring with the rest of the Sanhedrin–all the priests, scribes, and Pharisees. The sight filled me with fear and loathing. Everywhere, rumors were floating about how he said it would be better for one Man–Jesus–to die than the entire nation. I craned my neck, looking for Jesus, until I saw Him, standing off to the side still bound and hemmed within a circle of guards.
Then Caiaphas began to question Him. I strained my ears, trying to listen, but only caught a few words here and there. The critical tone was unmistakable, though, and my heart lurched. Jesus would get no fair trial here.
A woman’s voice interrupted my train of thought. I turned to see the maidservant who let us in the gate talking to Peter. Peering intently at his face in the firelight, she asked, “You are not one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”
“Why, this Jesus, the one just brought in for trial.”
I couldn’t see Peter’s face, but his reply hit me like a physical blow. “Woman,” he exclaimed with patronizing exasperation, “I do not know what you are talking about!”
Stunned, I took a step forward, ready to shake Peter by the shoulders…then I thought better of it. Peter had already foolishly drawn attention to himself; it would only make things worse if I became involved. Swallowing hard, I turned my attention back to the business at hand.
Caiaphas was still questioning Jesus sternly. His voice began to rise in anger, becoming audible for the first time. “Will you not answer?”he demanded. “What sort of doctrine do You preach? Surely if it were not unlawful, You would not be so reluctant to answer me. Are You filling the people’s heads with nonsense?”
Jesus appeared unperturbed. “I have spoken publicly to the world,” He said, His voice louder but still calm. “I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask Me? Ask those who heard Me what I said to them. They know what I said.”
Without warning, a guard reached over and struck Him in the face. “Is that how you answer the high priest?” he shouted, venom in his voice.
I gasped aloud, clenching my fists. But Jesus did nothing. “If I have spoken wrongly,” He said mildly, “testify to the wrong, but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?”
Caiaphas, apparently taken aback, retreated to confer with the rest of the Sanhedrin in hushed tones. Then, while waiting impatiently, I heard another voice from behind me. “Wait a moment–this man was with Jesus the Nazarene!”
I whirled around to see another maid questioning Peter; before I could react, he denied it with an oath. “I do not know the Man!”
Helpless to stop him, I wrenched my attention back to Jesus once more. He simply stood there, waiting. Finally, Caiaphas stood up and addressed the spectators. “Are there any witnesses with testimony against this Man?”
The response was overwhelming. Dozens of men clamored for attention, all of them shouting with all their strength, trying to drown the others out. The Sanhedrin questioned the witnesses, one by one, until they all began to blur together in my mind. Caiaphas was obviously more interested in finding an excuse to convict Jesus than the truth as he grew increasingly frustrated at the witnesses’ inconsistent testimony. Still, it only had to be only a matter of time before he could twist something his way. All I could do was listen, my every nerve stretched taut with tension.
The night wore on. I was wobbling on my feet, my mind in a daze but still wide awake. Eventually near dawn, two men stepped forward, insisting,“This Man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’”
Silence fell over the courtyard.
When Jesus didn’t respond, Caiaphas asked Him, “Have You no answer? Why are these men testifying against You?”
Jesus still remained silent.
Caiaphas abandoned all pretense of restraint. “I order You to tell us, under oath before the living God, whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God!”
Jesus looked at him–I could imagine the high priest flinching before his penetrating gaze. “I am,” He stated in a resounding voice, “and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
A gasp rippled through the crowd. Caiaphas abruptly stood up, tearing at his robes. “What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy from His Own mouth!” Turning to the rest of the Sanhedrin, he demanded, “What is your opinion?”
A chorus of angry shouts pierced my ears. “He deserves to die! Turn Him over to Pilate!” As if possessed, the guards swarmed all over Him, striking Him, mocking Him, and blocking my view. Recoiling in horror, I shoved my way backwards through the crowd. I didn’t care if I was recognized anymore–I just had to get to Peter.
I found him engaged in conversation, the absolute worst thing he could be doing–he always tended to talk too much when he was nervous. Before I could break in, my worst fears were confirmed. One of the bystanders spoke up, asking “Surely you, too, are one of them; even your speech gives you away as a Galilean.”
Another voice called out, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him?”
At that, Peter began to swear as if he was back in his fishing boat and frustrated with the tangled nets. “I do not know the Man!”
Almost immediately, a shrill cockcrow rang through the early morning air. I froze, remembering what Jesus had told him at dinner last night. Amen I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.
Peter’s face blanched, draining completely white, and then crumpled. Before I could reach him, he turned and ran out the gate.
With my mind in a panic, I stopped and let him go. My heart ached for him now, but I couldn’t chase after him and abandon the Lord. I was the only one left now, alone in a hostile crowd.
It was inevitable. The Sanhedrin would hand him over to Pontius Pilate. In the hands of the Romans, Jesus would find nothing but bloody death.
To be continued…
By Ellen Virginia