a task given

It was always easier when they looked like they needed to be healed…

Raphael sat on the roof beam, watching. Peter had already overturned the washing basket and torn all the straw from the bed. He was now lying prone on the floor, padding his hand along the shadows behind the bed frame.

Nothing. Peter arose, dusty and annoyed.

‘Loose something?’ Raphael said, as he hopped down from the beam.

Peter spun round, and looked to the door. Surely, he had closed the door? But apparently not.

He wasn’t sure he liked this Raphael. He’d appeared a few days ago, and now wouldn’t leave him alone. Yet, Jesus welcomed him, so…

‘No, no. I’m fine. Just sorting a few things.’
Raphael laughed, and said, ‘here, let me help you.’

Together they began re-laying the straw and tidying the clothes. Peter’s eyes kept straining along every shelf, every door frame.

‘What were you looking for?’ Raphael asked again, once Peter had settled down.

‘Keys.’ Peter said, in defeat.
‘But you have no locks…’ Raphael said, almost innocently.

‘No — never any need.  Not here.  But… ‘ Peter went digging through his pockets again.

‘But you found some?  Offered to keep them safe, maybe?’
Peter got defensive, then saw the mischievous glint in the man’s eyes.

‘You know, don’t you?’ Peter said, as he slumped on the bench.

Raphael nodded and quoted, ‘You are Peter, and on this Rock…  So, has he given you the keys, then?’

‘No, not yet. But it’s a big responsibility, and I’ve… well, I’ve been practising.’  Peter walked out into the yard, and pulled out his tools. There, half-whittled, was a wooden key.

‘This is the fifth one I’ve made. I keep loosing them…’
Raphael nodded. ‘Tricky things, keys…’
Peter scowled, and turned away from him again.

‘But that not all, is it? What are you doing here today? Why are you whittling keys instead of going with the others.’

‘You heard him! “Get behind me, Satan!” I’m a stumbling block. I get in the way.’

‘You know he didn’t mean it.’
‘But he did. I act too fast. I make a fool of myself. I get in the way.’

‘True enough– but he didn’t mean it. What he has to do is hard. He needs you to understand that — not try to talk him out of it. And that day — well, that day you said the very thing he was trying not to allow himself to think. You said he should go a different way.’

‘No fear of that. I could never influence him.’
‘Oh, Peter, don’t you see? You can. You do. He needs all of us around him — but sometimes he sees things you don’t, and you misunderstand.’

Peter had never thought of it this way — and he wasn’t sure if he trusted this Raphael yet. But it was true:  Jesus chose to stay with them. Maybe he did need them…  Peter began to feel better.

Raphael let Peter relax into the silence. He still wasn’t quite sure what his task was with Peter… but he trusted it would become clear in time.

‘Do you remember the day you walked on water?’
Peter looked up, swiftly.  How did Raphael know that?
‘They day I learned to drown, you mean. Another bit of folly.’

‘Well, yes. But there was a moment, wasn’t there, when the water held?’

Peter remembered it. Jesus, calm as could be on the waves, and Peter stepping out — crazy, wild, trusting. The first step held and he walked on water, and then his nerve broke, and he forgot even that he could swim.

‘Yes.  There was a moment.’

‘Right then. Hold onto that. You are Peter…’

‘I am Peter… and perhaps … maybe Andrew is good with keys?’

The angel smiled and led Peter out of the village.   His first job was done.  Now, it was time to climb a mountain.


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