(Inspired by John 18: 12-27)
As Jesus’s disciples fled through the dark, forested hillside, the Roman soldiers roughly arrested Jesus and tied His hands like a criminal. Satisfied that the first part of their orders were completed, the Roman cohort and the temple guards marched the Nazarene down the hill, across the Kidron Valley, and into the sleeping city.
After escaping the pursuing militia, Rock ran into young John and pulled him into the dark shadows of a large rock.
“They took the Teacher, Rock,” John said in anguish, “and we didn’t do anything to stop it!”
“I tried,” Rock said defending himself, “but the Master wouldn’t let me! He made me put away my sword!”
“There were too many of them,” John returned. “He probably saved your life. It turned out like He said. He got taken by His enemies, and we all ran away like cowards!”
“I will not deny Him! I will not forsake Him!” Rock said with passion.
“We have already forsaken Him!” John exclaimed with tears.
“NO!” Rock answered firmly. “We failed Him the first time, but we will not fail Him now! The militia’s gone, so let’s follow the soldiers and find out where they’re taking Him.”
“Yeah!” John agreed. “Maybe we can do something to help Him.”
“Maybe,” Rock answered his friend, “but whether we can or whether we can’t, I will not deny Him…I will not forsake Him! Come on!”
The two disciples followed the soldiers at a distance, staying in the darkest shadows of the night forest. They had to be even more cautious when they crossed the Brook Kidron and reentered the city.
“Where are they going?” John whispered as they hid behind a house corner.
Hazarding a quick peek, Rock turned back to his friend. “They’re heading to the upper city,” he answered.
“Okay, I know where they’re going,” John said confidently. “They’re taking Him to the high priest’s home. It has a really large hall that will hold lots of people. Come with me; I know a quick way there.”
John turned off the main street and rushed through a maze of back streets and alleys. Rock was completely lost when John finally stopped and peered around a corner.
“Look there,” he hissed to his friend.
Trading places with him, Rock glanced down the street. In front of them was the high priest’s palace, all lit up with torches and lamps. Rock saw the soldiers arrive with their prisoner as he watched. “They just got there with the Teacher,” Rock related in a low voice. “I’m going to try to slip up and secretly join the militia when they march in.”
“No—wait!” John hissed, grabbing Rock’s arm. “I can get us in.”
“They know me.” John answered with a smile. “My mother’s family has worked for the high priest and his people for many years. Whenever father and mother brought us to Jerusalem, we always stayed here. Every time we came for one of the feasts, we always ate it here.”
“You’re kidding me!” Rock said in disbelief.
“Nope,” John shot back. “Everybody in there knows James and me. As soon as they all get inside, we’ll go up and see who the gatekeeper is tonight. Just let me go first.”
As soon as the thoroughfare in front of the grand house was empty, John slid out into the side street and led the way to the main gate. When John stepped into the light near the front of the entrance, he heard a young female voice call out, “Who’s there, and what is your business with the high priest?”
John stared at the servant girl’s face for a moment, but then he recognized her. “Shira? Is that you?”
“Yes!” the girl answered pleasantly. “Who are you?”
“Surely you remember me. I’m John, the son of Zebedee and Salome.”
“John!” the girl gasped. “Yes, of course, I remember you. You and James used to pull my braids.”
“Yes, well…I’m surprised to see you at the gate tonight.”
“Me too,” the girl returned. “I’m supposed to be in bed, but all the men were sent out with the soldiers.”
“I’m sorry you’re missing your sleep, Shira, but since you know me, can you let me in?”
“Sure,” she answered as she unlocked the gate and swung it open.
As John stepped through, Rock tried to follow, but Shira, not recognizing him, quickly pushed the gate closed.
“It’s okay,” John said quickly. “He’s a friend of mine.”
“Are you sure?” the girl asked as she closely studied Rock’s face. “I’ve seen him before….Aren’t you one of the followers of that teacher they arrested tonight?” Shira asked suspiciously.
“Who me?” Rock answered with a nervous laugh.
“Are you?” the girl pressed.
“No, of course not!” Rock lied, looking the girl straight in the eye.
“He’s okay, Shira,” John persisted. “Just let him in. I’ll vouch for him.”
Reluctantly the servant girl swung open the gate, and John rushed Rock further into the courtyard.
The night was cold, and the soldiers and servants who remained outside were warming themselves from a charcoal fire burning in an iron brazier. John and Rock subtly moved closer to the warmth.
“Since they know me, I’m going to slip inside the house and see what’s happening with the Teacher,” John whispered in Rock’s ear. “I think it’s best if you stay out here.”
Rock nodded his head in agreement.
John had no trouble getting in. One of the servants that he knew informed him that the Nazarene had not been taken to Caiaphas’s grand hall as John had expected. Instead, the prisoner was dragged to a smaller hall near the rear of the large house for Annas to question Him.
Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas and was supposed to be the high priest, but he had crossed the Roman governor and had been replaced by his son-in-law. The Romans recognized Caiaphas, but the Jews still considered Annas to be the legitimate high priest.
When John arrived at Annas’s impromptu court, he heard Jesus responding to questions He had been asked about His disciples and His ministry.
“I have always spoken openly for everyone to hear,” Jesus began. “I have taught in the synagogues and in the temple and wherever crowds of people came together. I spoke nothing in secret. So because I have been completely open with My teaching, why are you questioning Me? Question those who were listening to Me. They know what I said.”
Suddenly one of officers of the temple guards, who was standing beside Jesus, drew back and drove his fist into the side of Jesus’s face. “Is that the way you answer the high priest?” he snarled with contempt.
It upset John to see the abuse, but he was proud to see that Jesus didn’t cower in front of the bully. He turned and faced the officer. “If I have spoken wrongly, then the law says that you are to bear witness of the wrong, not to strike a man simply because you don’t like what he said. If you can’t prove Me wrong, then the law gives you no right to hit Me.”
The officer seemed taken aback at the Teacher’s boldness and confidence.
Annas could tell that intimidation wasn’t working. “I’ve heard enough!” Annas called out. “Send him to Caiaphas!”
The guards jerked Jesus around and dragged Him to the great hall where Caiaphas eagerly waited. John joined the rear of the parade as they left.
To avoid attracting attention, Rock had kept to the outside of the group standing around the fire. After a couple of hours, he began to shiver in the cold, so he moved closer to the source of heat. As he did so, he bumped into a couple of men standing there. “Oh…uh…I’m sorry about that,” Rock said to both. “I beg your pardon.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” one of the two said, taking a closer look at the newcomer. “That’s a pretty strong Galilean accent you got there. You must be one of the Nazarene’s disciples.”
Every eye in the group turned to stare straight at the big fisherman.
“Me?” Rock returned nervously. “No, not me. I don’t even know Him.”
“I’m sure I saw this one in the garden tonight,” another of the men said, walking up closer to Rock. “You guys remember when one of the Nazarene’s followers jerked out a sword and cut poor ol’ Malchus’s ear off?”
Everyone in the circle nodded in agreement.
“Malchus is my cousin,” the man continued, “an’ we was standin’ together. I’m almost positive that this is the scum-suckin’ rascal that did it.”
Panic set in as Rock noticed the men begin to inch towards him. “IT WASN’T ME!” Rock yelled. “I’M NOT THAT GOODIE-GOODIE’S FOLLOWER! I’VE GOT NO INTEREST IN ANYTHING THAT PRISSY PREACHER MAN’S GOT TO SAY!” Then to emphasize his lack of interest in spiritual things, Rock began to curse and swear a blue streak at the men.
Just then the main door of the grand house swung open, and Caiaphas marched out, leading a procession of guards who were shoving a bruised and disheveled Jesus along on their way to the Roman governor. As they passed through the courtyard, Jesus turned and looked into Rock’s eyes. At the same instant Rock heard a rooster crow, and his heart broke.
All the men standing in the courtyard quickly joined the procession and left Rock standing alone by the fire.
John slipped away from the back of the group taking Jesus and ran to his companion. “They’re taking the Teacher to the governor, Rock!” John said urgently. “They are determined to kill Him! Rock?”
The big fisherman’s head was down, and his shoulders were shaking. When John put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, Rock burst into gut-wrenching sobs. “I did it!” he wailed. “Just like He said, I did it all! I stood right here and denied Him! I did it THREE TIMES!”
John patted his friend’s heaving shoulders. “He told us,” John said, trying to comfort Rock. “He said we would all forsake Him. But Rock, He also said that it would be alright…that He would take care of it.”
“THAT’S FINE FOR THE REST OF YOU,” Rock sobbed. “BUT I’M ROCK! I’M SUPPOSED TO BE THE STRONG ONE WHO NEVER FAILS HIM! I PROMISED HIM I WOULD DIE WITH HIM…AND I DENIED HIM!”
“Let’s follow them, Rock,” John pleaded. “Let’s go see if there’s anything we can do to help our Master.”
“NO!” Rock shouted angrily. “HE’S YOUR MASTER, NOT MINE…NOT ANYMORE! I’M NO BETTER THAN JUDAS!” After saying this, the distraught man rushed out of the courtyard and into the night.
John ran to the gate and yelled, “ROCK, DON’T DO THIS! IT ISN’T WHAT HE WANTS!”
By Alan W. Harris