Cephas

Yes, dear woman, he is alive. Before you, before any in this room, before anyone at all, I have seen him. I have engaged him, or better, he has engaged me!” Peter reclined at the end of the table and did not even rise at Mary’s appearance with her marvelous announcement. He was at peace, and his heart glowed warmly at his thoughts.

After the trial, he had not known what to do with himself or where to go. He longed for the shores of Galilee and the familiar smells of fish and nets. He longed for the sound of sail and the sting of wind-driven water in his face, but Jerusalem had none of these things. “Anything, anyplace I can be alone with my terrible deed,” his great heart crushed with self-loathing.

Some would say that it was chance that brought Peter to this place of shame and disgrace. But as he thought of it later, Peter was certain that his seeming random footsteps had been guided by the Spirit himself. In any case, Peter found himself staring at the gruesome form of Judas. Judas stared back with glazed, lifeless eyes, his body still swaying gently. Peter, speechless, could not remove his gaze from those eyes and in his stupor saw not the face of Judas but his own.

He stood there for several moments, feeling uncertain. Then, like his friend before him, he climbed the tree and edged out on the limb where the rope was tied. Unsheathing his sword, he swung its edge at the rope. But as he swung the blade, it almost slipped from his grip and he accidently gouged the body of Judas. Peter was not good with a sword, as his experience in Gethsemane and here confirmed. The second swing, however, severed the rope. Taut with the weight of the body, the tree limb swayed upward as the carcass fell and struck the earth in such a way that the stomach wall, weakened by Peter’s mishap, opened its contents to the ground.

To a Jew, touching a dead body was to defile one’s self, but Peter could feel no more defiled than he was already. He sensed a certain kinship with Judas, a certain vicarious identification with the body of the betrayer. He handled it gently, reverently.

The hills of Judea and around Jerusalem did not want for caves. It was to one of these that Peter carried the body of Judas. He had no spices, no grave clothes. Having labored under the weight of the body through the rocks and hills, he laid Judas on the floor of the cave, and sat down exhausted. Through the awful hours of the crucifixion, while his Lord hung suspended between the dark clouds and the blood soaked earth, Peter sat weeping and whimpering by the disemboweled body of Judas in the cave.

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