Excerpt from novel: The Fisherman
As you read this fictional scene concerning the apostle Peter and his reflection at the end of his life, think about what it is you want your life to say about the Lord. Read Psalm 107:1-3.
He opened his eyes slowly. The pain temporarily dulled his recollection of where he was as darkness flooded his consciousness. He instinctively stroked his matted beard. The dried blood which had clumped the many days of growth on his face brought with it the recollection his tired mind was searching for. Even with his eyes open, there was so little light. One eye was swollen shut, the other searching desperately for the faintest glimmer of illumination. He knew he was in the dungeons of a Roman prison. Though he tried to keep track of the passage of time, he could no longer decipher the number of days that had passed. Frequent floggings, such as the one he had just endured, were injuring his mind’s capacities as well as his physical body. The former was more concerning to him in the moment.
He knew that such brutality was only sport for the Roman guards who grew bored watching him. Provoking his quiet resistance and refusal to defend himself became a daily challenge. Surely Nero would not want his guards wasting their strength on a worthless Jew like himself. If only he knew to what end this political game would lead. He shook his head ever so gently. He did know where this would end, didn’t he? He had been told many years ago.
Rolling slowly off the cot, he fell to his knees on the hard cobbled floor. What was he wearing? The tunic had been stripped off him, that much he could remember. In its place he now wore a rough sack of burlap that scratched at his skin. He chuckled. This too had been prophesied.
Even as he painfully embraced a posture of prayer, he let his feeble mind dwell on the possibility that this was the beginning of the end. Hadn’t Nero blamed all Christians for the fires? Hadn’t the madman incarcerated Paul deep in the bowels of Mamertine prison? Paul – his name brought on a wave of emotion which he was not able to allow to wash over him. Not now, anyway. Not in this weakened state. Yet, try as he might, the thoughts of his mind seemed to have their own will. Rather than submit to prayer in the moment, he dwelled on the execution of God’s will to reach the Gentiles with the Good News. It was upon this wave that his comrade in Christ had set sail. Paul was magnificently used by the Lord. Yet, the powers of darkness sought to snuff him out. A Roman citizen, Paul did not have to succumb to the fear or shame of crucifixion. That is, in the world’s eyes it was a shame to die in such an ignoble manner.
Still, he knew better. To him at least, as with Paul, to die is great gain in Christ. But to die in the same manner as his Lord? No, he shook his head silently, too vigorously as a pulse of pain caused him to catch his breath.
“No, Lord,” he whispered through gritted teeth. “I am not worthy to die in the same manner as You. Let it not be so.”
He knew the choice would not be his. He no longer had a voice. Not here. Not now in this prison. Once again he chuckled to himself. How could such an outspoken, boisterous nobody from Galilee have come to a point like this? The waves of adversity he had once feared, the very ones he wasted focus on, had served the Lord in bringing him here to this hostile city at this particular time in history. Perhaps that was what bothered him most. The forced silence was almost worse than the physical torture thrust upon him. What purpose was there in life if to speak of the Lord was no longer an option?