A Rock from Sand: a Dramatic Monologue
Spoken by an actor portraying Simon Peter|
Debra! Debra! Wake up in there! Hey, down here! It’s your husband, Simon Peter! No, I’m not trying to wake the whole neighborhood on a Sunday morning. I just need for you to unlock the door and let me in. Please hurry! I’ll explain inside.
Whew! Thanks, Debra. Look, I, uh…would you get me something to drink, please? Whew, thanks. Hey, I…I don’t even know where to begin. I…yes, I know I’ve been gone since I left for supper Thursday evening, but…yes, I know I said I would phone you if something came up, but…Debra, you’ve really been concerned about me, haven’t you? I’m sorry. I know how thoughtless I can be sometimes. I didn’t mean to worry you. It’s just…so much has happened since I last saw you. I can’t even remember all the details, much less get them straight in my head. Everything is so jumbled together, and I…
Did you hear, Debra? They killed him! Jesus. They crucified him. Yes, this past Friday morning. We’d all had supper together Thursday night, just like we’d planned, and it was so great being together like that. Afterwards, several of us went with Jesus to the garden—to that special place I’ve told you about. He said he needed to pray like he’d never prayed before. Something was really bothering him, we could tell, but we didn’t know just what.
Well, anyhow, we—the rest of us—kept falling asleep; we’d eaten so much for supper, and we were just really drowsy. Jesus woke us up several times—he said he needed our complete support—but we’d just fall asleep again. Finally, Jesus just went ahead and let us sleep for awhile in peace. But several hours later we awoke with a start! The whole place had exploded in tumult and confusion! You can’t imagine! Judas Iscariot was there—the traitor! We’d wondered about Judas sometimes, but we always thought he was basically harmless. Well, it seems he’d sold Jesus out but good. Soldiers were there, sent to arrest Jesus like he was somebody dangerous—can you imagine?—and I, I was so scared I just whipped out my sword and started swinging, I don’t even know at what. I think I hit someone, though, because Jesus got upset with me and made me put away my sword. Then I slipped off into the darkness, but I watched them bind Jesus up and I followed at a distance as they carried him in chains back into the city.
I finally worked up my courage a little bit, at least, and I sneaked up closer and tried to blend into the crowd to find out what was happening. But I felt so conspicuous—like a watermelon trying to hide in a carrot patch—and, the first thing you know, one person after another started asking me if I wasn’t a follower of Jesus. Debra, it was just like Jesus had said it would be: I wouldn’t even admit to knowing the man! That’s how scared I was—spineless! I just totally panicked.
Well, Jesus stood there looking at me with this really hurt look, and I ran off and started crying uncontrollably. No, Debra, not just weeping. I mean wailing. Bitterly. Hysterically. I know it’s supposed to be considered unmanly for men of our day and age to cry and carry on like that, but, Debra, I didn’t care. I didn’t feel like a man at all right then. Half of me was hurting from imagining just what Jesus must have been going through, and the other half…I knew I should have been out there with him, no matter what.
But instead I ran. I ran, and I wept, and kept running, running away blindly from the same bad dream that kept following close behind; there was no escaping from it. I couldn’t even look anyone in the face anymore; I kept seeing Jesus’ face with those hurting, disappointed eyes like they were saying, ‘Simon Peter, Cephas, where are you? Where have you gone? Don’t you love me anymore? I thought you were willing to suffer with me. Didn’t you say you could bear anything I had to bear? Simon, Cephas, I’m lonely. Where are you?’
Debra, this morning I finally stopped running and started coming to my senses again. I realized it was time to face up to the reality of what had happened. The fear is gone now, much of it anyhow, but the pain of reality is so acute. Much of the pain is sorrow over Jesus’ death, of course—it was such a shock—and there’s disappointment over all the things that will never be. But I think the hardest part of all is having to live with myself, knowing just how much I let Jesus down. Debra, I betrayed Jesus just as much as Judas did! Some rock I’ve turned out to be!
Rock, Debra? I did say “rock,” didn’t I? Ha! Ha! That’s funny in a way. “Rock” is the term Jesus used to describe me. And—as you know—I always wondered about that…
You remember when I first met Jesus after my brother Andrew introduced us, Jesus looked me straight in the eye and said, “Simon Peter, I’m going to call you ‘Cephas’ because you are a rock.” A rock? I thought to myself. What a strange thing to say to someone he’s never even met before. Could it be that he’s heard a pillar in the fishing community? Or does he think—because of my large size—that I’m slow and stupid and clumsy? I kept trying to figure it out, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Though I knew Jesus could have been making fun of me, still somehow I felt like he meant it in a positive and encouraging kind of way—like he expected something really good from me. Humph! For all the good I was going to be to Jesus sometimes, he might more appropriately have named me “sand.”
That reminds me of one of Jesus’ stories—he told us so many good ones. He said that a man was free to build his new house on any kind of foundation he wanted to use. Even sand, if he liked. But if a man did build on sand, he was going to feel pretty foolish and cussing mad at himself when the storms came and that new house collapsed and his thirty-three year mortgage washed down the drain. Instead, Jesus said, a man—a smart man—builds his house on a rock. It’s safer and more secure when the storms come, and—besides that—it helps to keep the insurance costs down. Ha! Ha! No, Jesus didn’t say that part; I threw that in myself. But seriously, though, I wonder if Jesus realized at that point just how quickly I could stand up big and tall and then—more quickly still—stick my foot in my mouth or my faith in the sand.
Like the time Jesus was out walking on the water during a severe thunderstorm. He looked so calm and peaceful, like he was out for a Sunday stroll on land on a sunny day. So—bigmouth me—I said, “Hey, Lord! I’ll bet I can do that, too, if you just order me to.” Well, he said, “Come on, Peter,” and I hopped over the side of the boat just as a big wave sloshed in my face and I stepped on top of, not into, the water. And I started…walking! That was the strangest feeling. I was moving my own feet, but—huh!—it seemed like there was something or somebody holding me up from underneath. Then a cold blast of air blew up my tunic, and I shivered uncontrollably as a bolt of lightening struck somewhere close by, and I thought to myself, “This is impossible! Nobody, NOBODY walks on water, not during a storm, not any time!” Well, let me tell you, when you’re out walking on water, it’s a bad time to have doubts of any kind. All of a sudden, whoever—or whatever—was holding me up just kind of let loose, and down I went—you guessed it!—just like a rock! Jesus saved my life that day, but he sounded disappointed when he asked, “Why did you doubt?” and somehow I just knew that wasn’t the kind of rock Jesus had intended for me to be.
He gave us clues all along, but it wasn’t till—um!—closer to the end of his time here with us that I ever really even started to catch on. He gave us so many clues all along, but it wasn’t till closer to…the end of his time here with us…that I even began to catch on. Jesus asked us who the people were saying he was, and we started naming off all these dead and gone Bible characters people thought had been reincarnated (whatever that means) in Jesus. He laughed gently at their lack of perception, and then suddenly he was dead-serious again. “And what about you? Who do you think I am?” Well, I smiled myself then, because I knew Jesus would never ask me an intellectual question like that. I was wrong. He did.
“Simon Peter, Cephas,” he began. “Who am I to you?”
Well, I got so flustered that I just blundered around for what seemed like an eternity before I finally blurted out, “Why, you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of us and of all mankind!” I mean—wow!—I didn’t think to say that (I’d never even thought it before); it just kind of came out! And yet after I said it, I knew it was true. Jesus was so pleased with my answer. He said it was a revelation from God, and I sure wasn’t going to dispute that! He even said I was the rock upon which he was going to build his church—a house on a rock foundation, I supposed he meant—and I felt so big and tall and proud under his love and approval. And I thought to myself, “Maybe, just maybe that’s what this rock business is all about.” Maybe it was, Debra, but this rock you’re looking at, this slow, stupid, clumsy rock I am has sunk all over again—this time to the very bottom. They took away part of me when they arrested Jesus. They condemned that part when they sentenced him to die. And when they crucified Jesus, they killed that part of me. I had so much faith—sometimes at least—in just who Jesus was and in what he wanted to do even through me.
But everything has changed. There’ll be no churches built, not now, not on me or on anyone else. Jesus was only just starting his ministry to the people, and he was still so idealistic. His teachings were hard to follow, especially for practical, hard-headed men like me. But I tried. I tried to follow them because Jesus seemed to enjoy living that way.
But the real world got to him at last, and I guess he’d teach us differently now, if…if he was still alive. There’d be less of this love and forgiveness and turning the other cheek, that’s for sure. He’d be ready and willing—anxious, I’ll bet—to lead a rebellion…against the church, against Rome, against the whole doggoned system. That’s for sure.
It’s funny in a way, Debra. Jesus used to tell us that whoever lived by the sword would die violently. But he died that way, anyhow. Surely he would be willing now to fight for those things he believed in!
Debra, I don’t know. I’d never really thought about it that way before, but you could be right. Perhaps Jesus DID fight for the things he believed in and—who knows?—maybe he even won! They certainly didn’t destroy what Jesus stood for just by killing him, that’s for sure. He was love and peace and forgiveness to the very end. And you’re right: there’s more victory in that than in willing wars.
And the truth, yes, the truth Jesus stood for, is the mightiest of all weapons. You’re right. There’s nothing that can stand up against that.
And the promises—those reassuring promises. I believed them, and maybe—just maybe—they can’t be killed, either!
Do you know what this means, Debra? There’s still a chance for me to become the rock of Jesus’ church. If nothing else, I can pick up the same sword—the truth of Jesus Christ—and fight with that. If I die with that sword, then perhaps I can at least die with the same love and peace and forgiveness Jesus died with.
But still, Debra, I wish Jesus was…still alive. There are so many things I don’t understand, and I feel so along at the prospect of trying to carry on without him here. Besides that, I miss him terribly, and I just wish somehow he could…
Debra! Debra! What’s that commotion down there in the courtyard? Mary and the other women? What’s wrong? I’d understood they were going to the tomb to anoint his body this morning, but they look cheerful and excited!
What in heaven’s name could have happened, do you suppose?
Roger E. Bruner