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Personal Reminiscences of the Apostle Peter
An Easter message by Fred G. Zaspel


{We are going to do something a bit different. We want you to imagine that this room is a prison cell, in Rome. The year, is A.D. 68. You have come here to visit the apostle Peter, and have asked him to give you his personal testimony. He has carefully prepared for your arrival, because he is aware that this may well be his last opportunity to speak to anyone, about Jesus.

Listen carefully then, for we are privileged to be the final audience to hear-- "Some Personal Reminiscences of the Apostle Peter."}

Well, I thank you for coming to visit me, and I want you to know that I am as happy as I can be to speak to you. You have asked me to give my personal testimony--actually what you want is my memories of Christ. You want me to tell you of my time spent with Jesus. And really nothing could delight me more, even--or should I say, especially--while here in prison, than remembering Him and telling you about Him.

I should hurry along--I don't know how much time they will allow you. I will start at the beginning. I was a young fisherman by trade--with my brother, Andrew. We had a rather good business going. I would never have got rich from it, but it kept our families fed and clothed--and then some. I rather prided myself in my knowledge of the trade. In fact, I always wanted to write a book about fishing. I thought I'd title it, Knowing Fish. I never got around to it, though--what with helping John Mark write his account of the life of Christ, writing to the churches myself, and travelling to minister to them. And frankly, fish don't interest me like they used to. And for good reason--I left off fishing for fish a long time ago so that I could fish instead for the souls of men.

It all began one day about 38 years ago when my brother, a disciple then of John the Baptist, came to the house shouting and hollering his head off--we Galileans are a rather excitable type. Sort of the red-haired Irish of the middle-east. The Jewish historian Josephus has written that about us, and I suppose it is a reputation we deserve. Anyway, Andrew was obviously excited about something, and when he finally got his breath he said he had found the Messiah--in fact, he said he had just spent the day with him. Now, I always trusted my brother, but this one really stretched his credibility a bit. So he took me to see Him for myself, and I have to say that when I first saw Jesus, I wasn't sure what to think. He seemed ordinary enough--there was no halo or anything--but then again He was extraordinary. I had never met a man so sure of Himself, yet so humble. I've met plenty of people who were sure of themselves--but generally they were not the kind of people who should have been! You know the kind, I'm sure. But Jesus was different. His whole demeanor was compelling. And when He spoke, he owned our attention.

Imagine, here we were meeting for the very first time, and He had the audacity to change my name. My parents had named me Simeon--or Simon, the Greek equivalent--Simeon Bar-Jona, or Son of John. Simon Johnson! Frankly I had always felt that this name had served me very well. But here at my very first encounter with Jesus, He said, "From here on you will be called Cephas"--that's the Aramaic form--Peter, the Greek name is the one you are more familiar with. Cephas means "Rock," and I have often marvelled that He gave me that name, because while on just about any given day I would have been happy to tell you of my rock-solid stability as a follower of Jesus, in my more honest moments I have to admit that I never really deserved the name.

But there He did it--he gave me a nickname. It all seems like just yesterday.

I don't think it was more than a few days--or perhaps a week or so--later that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and saw me with Andrew throwing a net out from our boat to catch fish. And it was like the first time we met--it just didn't matter what I was doing or what my plans were. He had come to tell me of a change in my plans--a change He had made. "Follow me," He said, "And I will make you fishers of men!" Now I can understand a figure of speech as well as the next guy, but I really wasn't sure what all he meant by a "fisher of men." But "Follow me" was clear enough, and so I supposed that somehow He was drafting me into some kind of recruiting service for Him. Boy, did I hit that on the head!

Now if you are not familiar with traditions in Palestine, I should tell you that "following" a Rabbi means something very specific. It meant that I was to uproot, leave my own profession behind, and follow him around as he travelled and taught. I was to be a special pupil, one whom he would teach privately and in more depth. The striking difference here was that He called me to follow Him. Generally, it is a disciple's responsibility to find a teacher and to follow him. But Jesus came to me and issued the call, and I tell you the call was irresistible. Andrew and I immediately went off with Him, leaving our nets and boat behind. Some have wondered if the decisiveness of my response was due more to my temperament than anything else, and I am sure that enters in somewhat. But I say with all truthfulness that I knew that very moment that this cause to which I was giving myself--whatever it was--was a far greater concern than my nets and my boat and my business, and I went off with Jesus with a great sense of anticipation.

We hadn't walked far when we came across two of Jesus' cousins--James and John with Zebedee, their father, mending their nets along the shore. Now James and John--there's a couple of men you want on your side! I always get the wrap for being the big-mouth of the crowd, the fighter. And I admit, I am a bit feisty. But James and John--they were every bit as hot tempered as I was. Everyone who knew them knew them as "the Sons of Thunder." And that was no reflection on their dad, either! These two were like thunder! Why, I remember one time when the people of Samaria didn't want anything to do with Christ, James and John suggested that they call fire down from heaven and roast 'em all! Sons of Thunder, indeed!

Well, anyway, Jesus did the same with them as He had with us--He called them to leave their business--and father--behind and follow Him. And their answer was as quick and as decisive as ours.

I guess I shouldn't pick on James and John like this. They really were my very closest friends. John was always known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." There were several reasons for that, not the least of which was the fact that John and Jesus had been life long friends, and were close since childhood. James, as you know, is gone now to be with Christ. You have no doubt heard how he was martyred by Herod.

I often wonder about that--not about martyrdom; I have seen already in these past 30-some years how in God's providence the blood of the martyrs has been the soil in which the church has grown. Stephen was the first, then James. Several others of the twelve are gone now too. But what I wonder about is the fact that God allowed James to die but not me. It was because the murder of James pleased the Jews so that Herod took me prisoner also to do the same to me. But God didn't allow it--He sent an angel to rescue me. I have wondered about that many times.

But James and John were my closest friends. And we three together were the "inner circle" of the twelve disciples. We above all the others enjoyed the closest fellowship with Jesus. He took us in and taught us so many things. And it was simply thrilling to listen as He taught us. He could put His finger on a text from the OT, and the insight He had into it was profound. Beyond that He would give us His own teachings which were so fresh and so right and so relevant. Then just before His ascension it was these His teachings He told us to take to the world--which is what we have been attempting to do, and of course is why I am here right now.

I was with Jesus almost constantly for three years, and during that period of time as I watched Him and listened to Him my faith began to grow strong--and so did my love and my affection. He was without question the most magnanimous, the most powerful and compelling figure in all of history.

I remember one day--it was a Sabbath--we were walking along with Jesus past a wheat field. As He spoke to us we were hungry so we began to pluck some heads of grain and eat. I tell you, those Pharisees were like a bad case of malaria -- we were never rid of them. I had only eaten a few bites and they were all over us. Of course, it was not us they were after, it was Jesus. "Why do you let them do that?" they asked, "That is a violation of Moses' law to harvest on the sabbath!" "Harvest"?--yea, right. Well, by the time Jesus was done He had made such great claims for Himself and had asserted such prerogatives that they set out with determined vengeance to destroy Him. Anyone who claimed to be greater than David, greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, greater than the Sabbath, and greater than the Temple, they thought, was a blasphemer of the worst kind. So from then on they set out--in compliance with the Herodians, of all people--to kill Him. The Herodians you know were a more secular sect of Jews, and the Pharisees ordinarily would have nothing to do with them, but I guess there is no quicker way to make a good friend than to find a common enemy!

But again, it seems like just yesterday, and I remember so well how I was struck with Jesus' claims myself! Greater than the Temple?!

Then there was the time we were all sailing across the lake. Jesus was asleep when an awful storm blew up. I had spent my life on that lake, and I had seen storms, but not like this one, and the more I think of it the more I am convinced it was nothing but the activity of Satan to destroy the Lord. Well, we panicked--"Master, don't you even care about us? We're going to die out here and you're asleep!" I'll never forget it. He just went up and hollered at the wind and the sea! "Stop it!" He said. And believe me, it stopped. But then we were almost more frightened--there we stood, out in a boat with a man who could with a word stop dead the greatest storm I had ever seen. I certainly would never accuse Jesus of having asked a silly question, but I sure wondered what He meant when He turned to us and asked, "What are you afraid of?" But I tell you something else--we didn't ask what He meant! We just stood there and marvelled to each other at what manner of man He was, that even the wind & sea would obey Him.

There were so many demonstrations like that. I saw Him heal the sick many times--men and women who had been born blind, lame; men and women who had suffered various maladies for scores of years. I even saw Him raise the dead! I was with Him when He raised the daughter of Jairus. I was with Him at Bethany after Lazarus had been dead four days. I was struck then not only by His compassion for Mary and Martha as He wept for them, but also by His anger which seemed so evident even on His face. It was as though He was looking beyond the present sadness to the cause of it all--Satan, and sin--and He saw it as man's greatest and worst enemy. And when He said, "Lazarus, Come out here!" -- he did! I tell you, to witness such an event is simply indescribable. What authority He demonstrated!

I was with Him when He fed a multitude--upwards of 15,000 people in all--with just five loaves of bread and two small fishes from a boy's lunch. I was with Him in Caesarea, Philippi--just in sight of that huge pagan temple--when He asked us of the opinions of the people concerning Him. I was so proud to be the first to speak for the others--correctly, this time--and declare our loyal confidence in Him as God's Messiah.

I was with Him on that mountain and was an eye-witness of His glorious majesty. With my own ears I heard the voice from Heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" What an awesome event.

And I was with Him on the stormy sea one other time, and that time I became the world champion water walker. James and John never did get over that!

It all seems like yesterday, and when I look back on all our time together, I recall a bond between us which I thought nothing could sever, not ever.

That last week began so gloriously. He went into Jerusalem riding on a young donkey, and the people all lined the streets with palm branches, hailing Him as their long awaited Messiah, the Son of David. It was wonderful, and I thought that finally things were making better sense. The Christ had come, and here everyone was acknowledging Him for Who He was--their deliverer. The level of excitement was like I had never seen. That was Sunday.

On Monday we returned to the City, and when Jesus arrived at the Temple and found it full of business transactions of all kinds--shady deals and all--He began kicking over their tables, throwing their cash registers out into the street, and shoving the men themselves out with it all. "My House is the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!" He said. It was great! God had come to His Temple in the person of His Messiah, and it was finally being restored to its better purposes. All that week Jesus was back to the temple teaching, and the people were awe-struck by it, and His popularity was rising.

But on Wednesday Satan himself entered the heart of Judas Iscariot, and that plot of betrayal was under way.

On Thursday we all met with Jesus in an upper room for the Passover meal. We were all puzzled as He spoke to us about His soon departure. Why was He leaving? Where was He going? And what would we do without Him? But somehow our hearts were strangely moved and comforted as He spoke of His return to us and of His sending of the Comforter and of His great love for us.

We sang a hymn as we were finishing up. I loved to hear Him sing. It was not just a beautiful voice, but it was the sincerity and vigor with which He sang--it was real worship.

But afterwards, as we were out on the Mount of Olives, Jesus said something which was both horrifying and unbelievable. He turned to us and said, "All of you will be offended because of me this night." Then He couched it in terms that made it all seem necessary as a fulfillment of Scripture: "For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." I was sure He just had to be mistaken, because while I could not speak for the others, I could speak for myself! And speak I did! "Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended." And I meant it--just that literally. I would proudly stand with Him if I were the only one on earth willing to do so! Frankly, at that moment I could imagine Matthew, that former IRS agent, caving in to some kind of pressure. Even James and John--they're full of thunder, but I could see even them giving out under pressure. I was willing to imagine anyone, even my own brother, Andrew, denying Jesus if the situation were hot enough. But not me--not ever!

After all, I was the one who for the others had acknowledged His Messiahship! And on that day when He had fed the multitudes with that small lunch, He preached and everyone it seemed had turned away from Him. But when He asked us then if we would go away with them, I was the one who said to Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Why, I had given up my fishing business for Him. I had left everything behind me--for Him. I had spent some three years with Him, listening to Him, learning from Him, growing in love for Him. I worshipped Him--and had told Him so, many times. Now after all this, what could possibly make Him think that I could become ashamed of Him or deny Him? Why, the very idea was ridiculous.

Sure, I had many times stuck my foot in my mouth--the time at Ceasarea, Philippi, for example, when I insisted that He stop talking about going to Jerusalem and dying at the hands of His enemies. Or even as recently as that very evening when I just refused to let Him wash my feet. But my failures were never due to a lack of commitment to Him--never. I had failed to understand Him at times, I was too quick to talk at times, I was many other things. But it was altogether unthinkable that I should be offended because of Him. I was proud of Him! I was proud to be named as one of His disciples. I would fight for Him, if need be--even die for Him. And I told Him so. And so did the others.

But He said to me, "Peter, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."

By then we had reached the Garden of Gethsemane. He told the others to sit down and wait while He took James and John and me farther into the Garden. It was obvious that something was on His mind. He was clearly bothered--just how bothered I didn't know until later. Then He said for us to sit down and wait for Him also, and pray, while He went on to pray alone.

Looking back at the soul struggle which He was enduring I cringe to think that I did not pray through the evening with Him--and for Him. Here He was, approaching the very worst hour of His life, and I fell asleep. He had just told me of some kind of great crisis approaching which would cause me to deny Him--I should have been praying for strength for myself! O, He came back and wakened me--twice, as a matter of fact--but I fell asleep again. I should have seen something about myself right there--just a few hours earlier I had vowed my unending fidelity to Him, and here I was beginning to fail Him already.

When Jesus returned He had a look of resolve all about Him. "Get up," He said, "for my betrayer is on his way now." His what? Just then we could see through the evening shadows a whole regiment, it seemed, of servants from the chief priests and elders--all armed with swords and clubs. And Judas was leading them to Jesus. But--true to my vow--I quickly drew my sword. It was really a stupid thing to do. Jesus' power was such that if He wanted deliverance He could have brought it about Himself. And I for sure couldn't have taken them all on myself! But I could go down fighting! I took a swing at one of the men--Malchus, was his name. I took good aim for his neck--but I missed and took off his ear. Jesus stopped me and reached out to Malchus and healed his ear. But it was His rebuke to me that left me so confused. "Shall I not drink of this cup which the Father has given me?" What did that mean? It surely couldn't mean that God would have Him go with these men so that they could kill Him! Then I thought of that time at Caesarea Philippi--He talked just like this then--He spoke of dying at the hands of His enemies in Jerusalem! "What was going on?" I thought. Everything was so wrong, yet He seemed so determined.

They took Jesus away, and--I am ashamed to say it--I took off. Well, not entirely. I lagged behind--with John--where they would not see us--I was afraid they would arrest me too! Then they took Him to the Palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas, and since John had connections with the priestly family we were given entrance onto the grounds also. We could see inside that all the chief priests and scribes had been waiting for Jesus--sitting there like hungry birds of prey. I stood out by a fire warming myself with the servants of the High Priest. With everyone else I watched inside as they stood Jesus before Caiaphas. I couldn't hear everything that was said, but I could see that they were becoming rather upset that Jesus was not answering their questions. Finally I heard Jesus say confidently that He was the Son of Man Who would come on the clouds of Heaven to establish God's Kingdom. This was precisely what I believed to be true, and my heart leaped to hear it, but as I reflected on what was going on my heart began to sink and faith began to diminish. As soon as Jesus made that claim the High Priest tore his clothes and screamed that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. I watched in horror and agony as the servants began to spit in Jesus face and then punch Him repeatedly. Then they blindfolded Him, and I could hear them laugh with delight as they said mockingly, "If you're a prophet, tell us who it is that hits you this time! Or this time! How about this time? Ha! Ha! Ha!"

You can never know how I felt. I believed His claims to Messiahship. He had proven them over and again--the miraculous powers displayed on the sea, the healings of so many people, the raising of the dead. He had to be the Messiah! It was all too obvious to me! But there He was being beaten and humiliated. I had believed in Him with all of my being. I had committed my whole life to Him. I worshipped Him and loved Him. He was my everything, and the object of all of my hopes. But there He was being abused so!

About that time a young servant girl came near me, and when she got a look at my face from the light of fire, she said, "I've seen you before--with Jesus of Galilee--you're one of His disciples." "What are you talking about, girl?" I said. A few minutes later, after I had gone up to the porch where I could get a better look at what was going on inside, another servant girl came to me and said the same as the other. And again I said, "I don't even know the man, how could I be one of His disciples?" And I even took an oath to support my claim. Then one of the servants who had come to arrest Jesus came to me--actually it was Malchus, the man whose ear I had cut off a while earlier--and he said, "I saw you earlier tonight out in Gethsemane--you are one of Jesus' disciples!" I was particularly concerned to prove him wrong, so I began to curse and swear, and I insisted, "I don't even know the man!"

Then a rooster crowed, and I remembered what Jesus had said--and what I had said in response! I a few hours earlier had been willing to fight off the soldiers, but here I had wilted before a servant girl. I felt as though a knife had been stuck through my heart.

Just then Jesus was led out of the judgment hall, and as He was walking he stopped, looked my way and caught my eye. He didn't say a word--He just looked at me. I became a bundle of so many emotions--I felt guilt. I felt pain and grief. But most of all I felt a deep sense of shame. I was deeply grieved--for what was happening to Him and for what I had just done. I ran out alone somewhere and cried like a young child who had lost its mother. I sobbed so bitterly I couldn't control myself. All night long I tossed and turned. My whole life, I felt, had come to an end.

Later Friday morning when I came back--with my soul torn apart--I saw as they led Jesus to Pilate. "What is the charge?" Pilate asked them, "I don't think this man is a criminal!" "If He weren't a criminal we wouldn't have sent Him to you for sentencing!" they replied. As Pilate went inside to interrogate Jesus, I saw the Jewish leaders making their way through the crowd, exhorting everyone to pray for the death of this blasphemer. When Pilate returned, He said to everyone, "I cannot see that He has done anything wrong at all! So here's what I'll do for you. You have a custom at Passover that I release to you one of my prisoners. Whom do you want, Barabbas or Jesus?" Now Barabbas was an insurrectionist and a thief and a murderer. "Thank God!" I thought, "Jesus will be set free--they surely don't want Barabbas!" I thought my heart would pound out of my chest as the crowd began to shout, "Give us Barabbas! Give us Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!"

So in attempt to pacify the Jewish leaders, Pilate had Jesus taken and whipped. Those Roman whips were instruments of the most cruel and inhuman torture I had ever seen. Long leather lashes spreading out at the ends into nine strands with bits of glass and steel tied into them. Thirty-nine times they beat Him with that thing--thirty-nine times! His blood ran everywhere, leaving gaping wounds in His flesh and exposed tendons. I just couldn't bear to watch. I couldn't bear to believe what was happening--it just had to be a bad dream. Surely I would awaken and find things different!

When they finished with Him He was all but unrecognizable. But still they began to punch Him in the face and spit on Him. Then one of the soldiers weaved together a circular crown from the thorn bushes nearby. Those thorns were up to three and four inches long. When he shoved it so hard down onto Jesus' head blood began to run profusely all down His head and face. Then another soldier put a purple robe on His bloody back, and another put a reed in His hand for a royal scepter. Then they all began to mock Him, "Hail! King of the Jews!" But He IS Israel's King, I thought--I believed that, firmly! He just had to be! But now it was becoming horrifyingly obvious that He couldn't be.

Pilate brought Him out to the crowd, but they were still not satisfied. "Then what shall I do with Him?" he asked. "Crucify Him!" they insisted. "Crucify Him!" "You take Him and crucify Him," he replied. "The law doesn't allow us to" they argued, "You must do it!"

Pilate took Jesus back into the palace to interrogate Him further. When he came back out He attempted to talk the Jews into allowing His freedom. But they insisted all the more, "He claimed to be a King! If you don't crucify Him then Caesar will execute you!" Pilate then brought Jesus out--He stood there, such an awful sight--full of blood and open wounds and wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns. "Behold your King!" Pilate said. "We have no king but Caesar," they responded. And finally Pilate ordered Him to be crucified.

That road to Golgotha seemed such a long one. Jesus was carrying His cross, and eventually fell beneath the weight of it. Still very afraid I stood along the outskirts of the crowd and watched as they stretched Him out on the large wooden beams and pounded blunt, heavy spikes into His wrists and feet. When they dropped the cross into its place a new kind of agony began. The rough hewn wood and splinters gouging into His torn back. The pain of the nails, the joints out of place, the difficulty in breathing. It was such an awful sight, and all of my firm hopes in Jesus were now completely gone, and I was shattered.

That evening Joseph of Aramathea--a highly respected member of the Sanhedrin and up till then a secret disciple--went to Pilate to obtain permission to take Jesus' body and bury it. Nicodemus was involved in it too. Funny, looking back, both of these men had been so cowardly all along and I so bold. Now the situation was so different. I secretly went out to the tomb to see the body myself. My heart sank again as I saw Jesus lying there wrapped in the burial linens--all held tight with the various plasters. And as I left I felt so lost, so empty, so confused.

I hardly slept a wink that night. The image of Jesus there on the cross was so vivid in my mind I just couldn't get away from it. I cried. I groaned. I sobbed. I felt as though I had died on the inside. I felt so numb. My life, I felt, was over. It was awful. You just cannot imagine it.

The next day was no better. I never experienced such an awful sabbath. The Pharisees recalled Jesus' prediction that He would return to life after three days, and so they convinced Pilate to seal the tomb with a large rock and prevent us, his disciples, from stealing the body and creating an illusion. Finally that night--from sheer exhaustion, I think--I fell asleep. John was there too--it was his house where I had been hiding since Friday. I can't speak for Him, but my dreams were the same as the previous night. Every time I closed my eyes, there He was, hanging dead on the cross--or lying there so cold and lifeless in the tomb.

It was very early Sunday morning when all of a sudden the women came bursting their way into our room and roused me from my dreams--I could still see Him hanging there on that cursed tree as I began to waken and gather my thoughts. The women were so excited--they said they had been to the tomb where Jesus was laid, and it was empty! He was gone! My mind quickly scrambled for some peg on which I could again hang my faith. "Could this be the reason?" I thought, "that He came to earth to live? Could it be that He must give His life in order to give eternal life to others? Could it be that God had demanded the blood of His own Son to make satisfaction for sin? Could it be that He had died for me, and now could He be alive?

I listened so carefully as they spoke. It seemed an idle tale, for what my eyes had seen three days earlier, my mind still saw very well. Still I said I would go and see for myself, yet deep in my heart I knew that these things they had asked us to believe were just too good to be true. But as we ran, I couldn't help but think, "Could this be the reason that He came to earth to live? Could it be that He must give His life in order to give eternal life to others? Could it be that God had demanded the blood of His own Son to make satisfaction for sin? Could it be that He had died for me, and now could He be alive?"

I tell you, that morning we ran as fast as feet can go. John was younger and took out ahead of me, and as we reached that tomb, we found the stone rolled away. John stood just outside looking in, but I ran on past him--and as I approached the open tomb I felt with each step more hope and more fear. When I reached the opening I stooped, and looked inside, and there were the graveclothes, just as they had left them--except they were empty! The body was gone. It was clear there had been no disturbance--the linens were just as they had been left--but the body was gone. It had just vanished.

And just that one look was all it took and I knew why He had died. Yes, this was the reason He had come to earth to live! It was required in the counsels of God that He give His life a sacrifice in order to give eternal life to others! Yes, it took the blood of God's own son to make satisfaction for sin! And I saw in an instant that He had died for me! And I knew He was alive!

My mind was like a bumble bees' nest. What will I do, I thought. Where will I go? I ran back toward Jerusalem, and I don't think it was more than a few hours later, when all of a sudden there He was, full of life. He wanted to talk to me, and I was so excited to see Him, but after the way I had deserted Him I was so ashamed. But what a meeting that was. My joy, my excitement, my tears -- His words of forgiveness and comfort and reassurance. It was wonderful--I could never forget those moments as long as I live.

I later heard that He also had appeared to the women and to some others on the road to Emmaus. He again appeared to me and the others while we were in an upstairs room talking over what all had happened. He appeared to us again a week later. Then again on the seaside--what a meeting that was. As soon as I saw Him I dived into water & swam to shore to be with Him--leaving the others with the fish! "Peter, do you love me?" He asked. The question hurt--I knew He knew my heart, and I also knew that He knew how my love for Him had failed--and that after such bold affirmation of my undying loyalty. But even with all that, my love for Him had not dwindled even a bit. "Lord," I said, "You know all things, you know that I love you!" And with that He commissioned me to continue my service for Him.

Throughout the days and weeks following His resurrection, He appeared to us or others a dozen or so times--and on one occasion to above 500 people.

I was there on that 40th day when He ascended into Heaven in a cloud. Just before, He had instructed us again of our duty to bear witness of Him throughout the world.

I have been doing just that now for some 35 years--and it is this that explains my imprisonment here today. I have been told that this is my last night on earth--tomorrow I will be executed, because--this time--I will not deny Him. I can't. He is Lord and Christ, and His approval is far more important to me than even my own life.

I was told that if I wanted to follow Him so, then I could die as He died--by crucifixion. That day when Jesus appeared to us on the seaside, He told me I would die this way. I replied to my captors only that I am not worthy to die as Jesus died. I don't know what they'll do--there is talk now that to accommodate me they will crucify me upside down.

But no matter--a short time of pain only, and then I'll again be with the one who loves me and died for me and who saved me and who now lives on High.

And as I go to my own cross, I remember well His words--"If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me." And know this--that I do so gladly, that whatever my Lord calls me to do is what I want most of all. For--

"When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."

"Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small! Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all."

It is time now that you must go. I exhort you to remember, that our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us out of that old life--not with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but by His own precious blood. And by His resurrection you are begotten again unto a living hope--to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.

So be careful to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now we see Him not, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

To HIM be Glory, both now and forever. Amen.