The sun hadn't risen very high even yet on this momentous morning, and the early morning breezes pushed the waters of the Sea of Galilee ashore at Simon's feet. The gentle lapping once soothed him, as did the rolling of the open waters beneath the bottom of his fishing boat. But this morning, the waves called in vain, the froth bubbled to eyes that weren't conceiving. Not long ago, he saw a sight that should have filled him with joy- the linen wrappings that bound the dead body of his Master, lying empty, as empty as the tomb they lie in.
Time and again, Jesus had said fantastic words about how He would have to die, but would rise again. Was it so inconceivable? Jesus had awakened those believed dead before. Why, Lazarus had lain in HIS tomb 3 days when Jesus merely called to him, and he came, still wrapped in his linens. And now, Jesus' own linens lay empty. Had He risen, as He said? And what would that mean- for him?
The last time Simon called Peter had seen the Man, Simon had just denied he even knew Him for a third time. In that moment, Simon had caught a glimpse of Jesus through a window in the Sanhedrin's Place of Judgment- and Jesus had looked back. "I told you so," Simon thought at first, but that's not what He saw. He saw forgiveness and terrible sadness; yes, and understanding as well.
Perhaps He could look at Simon with understanding, but Simon saw no such thing as he peered at himself in the water. Even if Jesus lived, what more would He want to do with me? If He lived, how could I face him?
"Simon?" the familiar voice came from behind him. He crunched his eyes shut to shut off the never-ending tears, clenched his fists and shrunk a bit, as if expecting a lashing from a Roman Cohort- like the one Jesus had felt. "Simon, I have come, as I promised."
"Once before, Lord," He began in a tight, choking voice, "I said to you, long ago- do You remember?- Get away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man..."
"And did I then?"
The eyes opened a little. "No, you did not," he half-chuckled. "But I didn't know You then, hadn't lived with You... hadn't betrayed You."
"And did I not tell you that all Scripture had to be fulfilled?" The Voice behind him replied. "He who is most trusted has to be most tested."
Simon, unturning, knelt beside the water, bringing up a handful to wash the sting from his eyes. "And I failed. In the end, no better than Judas..."
A hand gently touched his shoulder. "No? You know Judas is dead now, by his own hand..."
Simon started a moment, then fell back into self-focus.
"He never really understood, and he could not survive. You, Simon, you know Me. Even when you didn't fully understand, you knew Me. Turn and look at Me, for I mean to settle this."
Simon, almost without conscious will, rose from his knees, stood and turned. His eyes took it all in: The wounds from the thorns, the holes in the hands and feet. And the strange, new light- as if the Man was the sun and the clouds had retreated from his form. He struggled for words, but none would come.
"It is I," Jesus told him, "But you knew that. Unlike Mary, this didn't surprise you, did it? Not near as much as it made you... frightened."
Simon turned to one side, his gaze landing without seeing on the shoreline. "The last time I looked on you, I denied knowing You. How could I blame You, should You decide to do the same to me now?"
Jesus smiled that knowing smile, the one that always lit their hearts with His warmth. "And yet, how could I not forgive you, when it was to bring men forgiveness that I died?"
"Then, it all wasn't some nightmare," Simon said softly, almost to himself. "Or is this the dream, and I shall awake colder and more alone yet?"
Jesus took Simon's hand in both of His. "There will be time for explaining, and for understanding, later. Right now, this moment, you and I, there is but one thing needs said. All is forgiven. How can it not be, if you are to be the Rock upon which I shall build My Church?"
Simon laughed. "A fine rock I turned out to be. Easily blown in the wind, more like sand."
"If I could change stone into bread, " Jesus said, "Can I not change sand to stone?"
Simon turned back to face Jesus, but He was gone. Simon was alone for a league or more. And yet, he could still feel the hands that had gripped his. They were no dream, no illusion. And the words echoed. "All is forgiven... can I not change sand into stone?" And in his heart, something shifted. The brooding, the self-pity, these were done. And it was time to return to the others, to gather the others. Time to be the rock he needed to be, for their sake. Before this day was out, they would all have to come to grips with a new reality... a reality he had just seen and experienced.
Now, face yourself on the seashore, gentle reader. Have a happy and blessed Easter.