holy week | poem 3

I was thinking about all the different characters in the Easter story, and I was intrigued by how Peter and Judas reacted to so differently to their failures and to the offer of forgiveness. 

judas-brought-again-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver-to-the-chief-priests-and-elders

They say he promised paradise to the sweat-stained, sin-soaked scumbag hanging next to him.

I saw when he looked at a prostitute with eyes that spoke not condemnation or revulsion but love, deep, unshakeable love.

But I can not believe any of that could be applied to me.

I am not just a murderer or a thief or a slut; I am a traitor.

The sound of thirty pieces of silver shattering in shame on the temple tiles haunts my steps.

The taste of the bread he handed me when marking me as the one sours my mouth even now.

The look in his eyes right before I kissed him with my lying, poisoned mouth—

No.

I am impossibly far from mercy.

Impossible. After all I have seen him do, I dare to declare that.

So I turn my back on the light, and I run headlong into the darkness

With monsters whispering in my ears of despair, of my sin, of the blood on my hands that is seeping into the fetid depths of my charred heart,

Of me me me me wretched me.

They tell me that I am a good man, to recognize my sin, to hate it so much, to consider it so great as beyond redemption,

That at least in this I am not betraying him.

I do not see that all I am really doing is saying that he is too weak to ransom me.

That my sin is more powerful than his love.

And so my death gains not my absolution

But only proclaims my greatest blasphemy.

Silhouettes rooster crows in the morning

I remember when I first met him.

I was sweat-soaked and red-faced, the odor of fish permeating my clothes and skin.

The numbing repetition of my days had snuffed out any dreams. There was no escape from my destiny of loud, stupid, reeking fisherman.

And then he looked into my eyes, piercing me like I would a fish,

And what could I do but follow?

For he looked at me like I had some sort of worth.

When he looked at me, I felt like a warrior. I felt the rags of my past life slipping away.

He pulled me up from the waves and called me his rock.

And I betrayed him.

When I needed him, he saved me.

When he needed me, I abandoned him.

I was ashamed of him. It was like a sickness had invaded me, like I was falling into a swirling vortex, dizzy and dark. I raged against it even as I gave into its clutches.

When the rooster crowed, I thought

I’ll kill myself. 

I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t deserve to live anymore.

And then I saw him. He saw me.

His eyes bored straight into mine, like the first time—

I’ll kill myself

And all I saw was

Forgiveness. Compassion. Love.

So I didn’t kill myself, but I ran away anyway,

Back to my boat and the only thing I was good for. Who had I been kidding these past few years?

But again he sought me out

And again he told me I had a purpose, that I was his rock.

Forgiveness.

Who was I to take it? Three times, I had spit on him, on all he had given me.

I had made it to so very clear that I wanted nothing to do with him.

And here he was, hand outstretched, saying it again,

Follow me.

And I realized that it wasn’t about me, about my failures, that to truly love him would be to accept his love.

It is finished, he had said.

Who was I to say, no, it’s not, I must redeem myself? Who was I to say that I even could?

So I took his hand, and he pulled me up,

As he would do again and again and again the rest of my life.

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10 thoughts on “holy week | poem 3

  1. Oh wow. I studied John 13 last year, where both of these men were in the same room and both of their betrayals were predicted. It’s always fascinated me – how they both turned, but one was redeemed. You captured it so beautifully and vividly – that hopelessness in Judas, and the surprising grace extended to Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Abby, this is incredible. This resonates with me and through me in so many unspeakable ways. I shared it on facebook because I simply could not go without letting others see the beauty that is this poem. I put in the caption of my post:
    A beautiful story of grace and love is the one where an innocent Man dies the death of millions of sinners. Those who were close to Him might not have understood why He was here the whole time they knew Him, despite His teachings of that exact reason, but after seeing it come to pass, they knew. The story of grace and love, and the responses of those who could and couldn’t bring themselves to accept it.
    This is a blog written by one of my dearest friends Abby Livingstone, someone whom I greatly look forward to seeing become a famous author someday. I feel this poem captures the struggles we all face when it comes to looking at our own dirty wretched sinful selves and working at accepting God’s grace, knowing that we most definitely don’t deserve it, but receiving it anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! These were amazing!! What’s cool is that my sister and I read through the book of John a couple weeks ago and as we read the part about Peter denying Jesus we were saying how imagine how horrible he must’ve felt when the rooster crowed and you represented it so well! Beautiful! Your such a spectacular poet!

    Liked by 1 person

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