[The photograph was taken in an alley in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Date unknown. This is the last in this series of Lenten images and reflections. Tomorrow, however…]

When the Light of the World had been extinguished, Peter and the others sought shadows. No one has an authoritative figure for the population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death. Estimates range from 20,000 to 80,000, with tens of thousands more visiting the city during times like Passover. If one were trying to hide out, and Peter was, how hard would it be?

You were with him, weren’t you? With the Nazarene, I mean. Aren’t you one of his disciples?

No! I am not! img487.jpg

Move away from the warmth of the fire; into the shadows of night you go, Peter, before they arrest you, too.

And that was the night before. Before the rabbi faced his capital punishment, his crucifixion. Now that he was dead, Peter and his friends were even more afraid. The sun rises on Saturday, and somewhere in the shadows of Jerusalem, they hide. Together? More probably, they split up. Wouldn’t you? Fellowship is one thing, finding solace in mutual support. But after the trauma of yesterday…God, I just want to be alone. Somewhere safe. (Where is the angel now? The one who says, “Don’t be afraid.”)

There are soldiers over there. Hide behind that column. Religious leaders pass by, and they are the enemy today too. Duck under that tree branch. Anyone who looks you in the eye forces you into a doorway, out of sight. You hope.

As you hide, your memory is alive with what might have been, if cloaks and palm branches and hosannas and children singing and prancing had meant the success of the movement. He tried to warn us. Hosannas quieted. Dancers and demonstrators and disciples dispersed. Away from the crowds again, Jesus’ teaching came through a voice tense with passion, breaking now and then with sadness, but with love audible in every syllable.

Peter realized that they had all listened, but did not heed. Or, could not. Hopes were so high for all who paraded, shouted, cried, and pled, “Save us!”

And then within days, a last supper together, intimate, memorable. A prelude to betrayal, it turned out. Peter remembered following… at a distance, a safe distance, until he was recognized.

The next morning, hosannas had turned to “Crucify! Crucify!” Peter’s blood ran cold. And then the Light was extinguished and shadows became his friend. Peter hides. Crouches here, darts there, stays out of sight and weeps, for his Lord and for himself. He keeps an eye out for John. He wonders about Thomas. And Matthew. Anger and disgust well up when he thinks of Judas. “But am I any better?” He shivers in the shadows though the air is warm.

They will have to regroup at some point. They owe that much to the memory of Jesus. Their community was so important to him. But for now, Peter, lay low. You really have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

For now, a lonely man in the midst of a busy city, looking over his shoulder, in the shadow of the cross.