I have been thinking about the Apostles this weekend. The Gospels tell us some of the story – the Apostles fled after Jesus’ arrest, although two of them – Peter and John – followed the Lord to where He was first interrogated. Judas, well, we know what happened to him. He tried to give the 30 pieces of silver back, and then went out and did himself in or fell headfirst dead into a field. Poor Judas, if only he had listened and repented – maybe he did – I guess we will know someday.
Peter followed the crowd to the High Priest’s house and after being interrogated by several onlookers, denied the Lord, fled into the night and wept bitterly. We can imagine that he spent the night in tears in some dark place, until he could cry no more. But what about Good Friday? Was Peter standing beneath the Cross as John was? Probably not. Only the very young, as John was, have the courage to defy authority in that way, uncaring about the opinions of the crowd or the danger to their person. But was Peter in a position to see what was happening? I would think so – I would hope so if Peter was the man I think he was. Distressed and disheartened that he had denied His Lord at such an important time, how could Peter have not stood from afar, followed the crowd as Jesus carried the cross to Golgotha, beat his breast and cried again in agony of his denial as he watched the one he loved die? Though he had not the courage to follow Jesus to His death at that time, Peter must have surreptitiously watched. It is the human thing to do, not to abandon a loved one during their final trial.
What about the other Apostles? Were they crouching in some dark hidey-hole, hoping to escape the same fate? Why didn’t they flee Jerusalem – the city was where all the action was? If the Apostles were concerned that the temple authorities or the Romans were looking for them, why not flee into the wilderness? Instead on Easter Sunday we find them together in the upper room where they had eaten the Passover meal – except for Thomas. Judas knew where they had eaten, although we can assume he is dead by now, and given his remorse over his deed would not likely tell the authorities about where the others might be hiding. Did the temple authorities ask?
Holy Saturday would find the Apostles together, or so I think. Perhaps one by one they sought one another out. They had grieved privately at first, and then, as is the human thing to do, the men would share the time with those closest to them, those who knew Jesus best. Perhaps the Apostles recounted their dismay at what happened to Jesus. Perhaps they questioned,” how could this be”? “a Man who obviously was filled with God being treated in this way, beaten almost to death and then crucified”? Perhaps the Apostles recounted the years they had spent with Him, telling stories of the miracles they had witnessed. Perhaps some remembered that Jesus said He would be raised in three days. I can almost hear the scoffing — no one rises from the dead! While others recount the dead girl raised or the story of Lazarus raised from the dead. But Jesus was living when He performed these miracles — of course, God would work through Him then, someone would say.
Alternately laughing about situations they had shared, crying about touching moments they had witnessed, awestruck at the many miracles that Jesus had worked – just like family and friends who gather after a funeral recounting tales and memories of a loved one. Why would the Apostles be any different? And yet, they were in real danger. Their secret location wouldn’t be secret forever. I am sure there were spies looking for them, trying to root them all out, to end this strange new idea before it could spread. Why else would the Pharisees insist that a guard be posted at Jesus grave? They had heard the stories too, they knew what Jesus had predicted. Stop the Apostles from stealing the body of Jesus and arrest and condemn them at the same time – a brilliant plan, or so they might have thought. Or did they assume that if Jesus did not rise on the third day, the “cult” would collapse. So they made sure that no one could steal the body.
Why didn’t the Apostles return to their homes? Had Peter sold his boat – the Apostles or a group of them go fishing after Jesus’ Resurrection, so apparently not. Couldn’t James and John go back to work for their father Zebedee? Matthew probably wouldn’t go back to tax collection – his heart was different and the task would need his old heart. So what would Matthew do with his life now? And the others, what would they do?
The women in Jesus’ life – where were they now? John had been given charge of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He would be close to her – perhaps she was present with them on Holy Saturday, comforting them as only a mother can comfort. Was Mary surrounded by other women – Mary of Cleopas, her cousin, Mary Magdalen, Salome who may have been James and John’s mother? Or did these other women go to their own homes to grieve? Did Mary re-trace Jesus’ footsteps with John or the other women, looking for any remaining sign of His presence? A drop of blood, a piece of cloth left behind?
These mysteries remain and are really not that important – what is important is the Resurrection. And yet, the storyteller in me wants to know what happened during those days, what happened to those people, how did they respond to situations of death and even violent death. Were they so different than me?