Maybe you know the feeling. You’re in a strange place where you don’t know the people, perhaps not even their language. You’re depending on someone else to get you from point A to point B, and you don’t know how you’re going to get there otherwise. It’s risky, but you have faith that everything’s going to be all right.
And then your ride doesn’t show.
I once had a meeting to attend in Lourdes, a village in the south of France. People from around the world make pilgrimage there to visit the grotto where Saint Bernadette had her vision of the Virgin Mary. The plan was for me to fly into DeGaulle Airport (a bit northeast of Paris), shuttle to the airport in Orly (to the south of Paris), then fly into a small airport in Pau where someone from the conference would pick me up and take me the remaining 35 miles to Lourdes. Simple.
But then my shuttle to Orly got stuck in the Paris equivalent of rush-hour traffic. I missed my connecting flight and had to rebook, delaying my landing in Pau by hours. I had no way of contacting the person who was supposed to pick me up, and he, not knowing the situation, didn’t wait around.
Not for three hours, anyway.
I found a cab driver who, unfortunately, spoke no English. I had to communicate in whatever broken high-school French I could muster. I showed him some papers; he made some phone calls. Finally, he seemed to know where I needed to go. I hopped in the back of the cab, hoping I’d have enough money for the fare — and that he would take American dollars. I had not anticipated needing enough French currency for a long cab ride, and I worried more with every tick of the meter.
We arrived at the destination and he told me the fare. I had enough, but it was almost all the cash I had. I somehow managed to communicate that I was paying him more than what he was asking (according to the exchange rate) since all I had was $20 bills. He happily took the money, said au revoir, and drove away.
It took me a couple of minutes to discover that he had dropped me off at the wrong place.
By God’s mercy, the person at the front desk (wherever I was) spoke English and understood my plight. My actual destination was close by, though I might never have found it without her help. She made a phone call, a car was dispatched, and soon I was where I was supposed to be.
Looking back, it seems like an adventure. But at the time, it was anything but.
I tell that story because I want us to have a little empathy for Peter, a man who jumped on the Jesus train and hoped to ride it all the way to glory, who dared to correct Jesus for saying that he must suffer and die (Mark 8:32), who was horrified at the very idea of his master washing his feet. This is the impetuous, strong-willed fisherman who heard Jesus say, “Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer” and “Where I’m going you can’t come” (John 13:33, CEB) — and then, like a lost child, blurted out, “Where are you going? Why can’t I follow you?” (vss. 36, 37).
If you’ve ever been lost in a foreign country, or even a child lost in a department store, you know the feeling: Don’t leave without me!
Maybe that’s reading too much into the text. We can’t be certain what Peter was feeling, and John doesn’t say. But if we can empathize a bit with Peter’s humanness, we might also be able to embrace the hope that enlivens his story. More on that in the next post.