Written in 1986 for a Maundy Thursday evening service at Mfanefile United Congregational Church, Zululand, South Africa, where we (Ana & Tod) lived illegally (in a ‘Black Spot’ during apartheid) and ministered at the time. With no electricity, the church was lit by a few candles. In the days of apartheid, the world felt very dark.
Click on the link for a dramatic reading by James Church.
I meant what I said! Even if all become deserters, I would not desert Jesus!
Even if I must die, too, I would not deny Jesus! I meant what I said.
Disciple 1: (stand near back of church, call loudly to Peter) Peter, what happened?
Peter: We all see Judas kiss Jesus. Then everything went crazy! Someone seizes Jesus. A sword appears from nowhere. The High Priest’s slave’s ear is cut off. Then I know there’s gonna be trouble There is shouting and confusion. I hide in the roots of an old olive tree. It is all going so wrong!
The mob drags Jesus from the Mount of Olives. I follow, staying back a bit. We cross the Kidron Valley and enter Jerusalem by the east gate. It is dark, and the city streets are empty. I lag behind. I do not want to be seen or caught. Following their torchlights and noise is easy. I follow them right to the High Priest’s house.
Jesus must have been inside. I can not see him. A fire burns in the court yard. No one guards the gate. I enter. It is cold. I sit with others warming themselves at the fire. As I look around I realize those at the fire with me are from that mob that grabbed Jesus, soldiers of the High Priest. My blood runs cold. Still, I stay to hear what is said. I pull my cloak tighter around me.
Then we hear the High Priest scream, like a wail of triumph. The guards, the men at the fire with me, are called away. I see them take Jesus. Then they beat him. They hit and spit my beloved Jesus.
It is torture … just listening. But what can I do?
I am frightened. But I stayed. I stayed.
Now others are gathering around the fire. A group of serving women gather and start to gossip about Jesus and what happened. One of them looks at me and says, “Hey, you were with that man from Nazareth. You were with Jesus!” I start to sweat, despite the chill of the night. They will stone me, too, if they find out I was with him..
In fear I cry out, “No! I do not know what you are talking about, woman! I do not know him.” Then I hear the courtyard cock crow.
I feel so ashamed. I move away toward the gate.
But people have heard her accusation. Others are looking at me. She follows me. She points her finger and accuses me, “This man is one of them!” There is such venom in her voice.
“No! No!” I cry out, denying her accusation. “I do not know that Galilean!”
Then, I stand outside the gate. I don’t want to leave until I know what will happen to Jesus. A man measures me up and down and says, “Certainly, you are one of them. I can tell by YOUR accent you are a Galilean.”
I curse my accuser and shout, “I swear on my mother’s head I do not know this man!” And with that, I hear the courtyard cock crow, again.
At the passover dinner tonight, I swore to Jesus, swore to him, that even though everyone might desert him, I would not. Never! Even if I had to die with Jesus, I would not desert him.
I remember too well what Jesus said to me. Peter, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times. But I am so afraid. What can I do? They might stone me, too.
I am so sorry. I am so very sorry. I wanted to be brave. I was so afraid. Forgive me, Jesus.
[break down and weep]
Note: This can be emotional for the person in the role of Peter. I have cried profusely every time I have done this monologue. The first time, at Mfanefile, I was not prepared with tissue. Women of the congregation, also crying, shared their handkerchiefs. We were there, with Peter, together. Hearing James Church’s rendition 35 years later brought tears to my eyes.