Jesus walked in to the room, smacking dust off of the lower parts of his robe. He had been praying and from the looks of it, somewhere really dirty.
“Yes, Lord?” Peter stood up, curious as to what Jesus was going to say, hopeful that it would be to send him on some important assignment.
“You need to go back to the market, this isn’t going to work.” His tone was strained, irritable.
Martha had visited earlier, bringing fresh loaves, a bottle of olive oil and some wine for them. It was her way of sending her greetings to “the gang”, especially since the feast of Pentecost was near. Every town was buzzing with activity, prepping for their travels to Jerusalem for the feast. Jesus reclined by a low table and grabbed a piece of bread, poured a little oil on it and began to snack. He licked the oil that had missed the bread from his thumb and forefinger. A few cups were near the bottle of wine Martha had provided, Jesus looked at the bottle for a second and then poured a small amount for himself, barely a swallow full. Jesus’s overall body language was tense. He was struggling with whatever was on his mind. Even the amount of wine he poured himself was less than he usually took. Jesus swallowed the piece of bread in his mouth, looked at the cup, took the small shot and sighed.
“Look, I know we’ve enjoyed some great times together up to now, but I’ve been told by our Father that we need to make some changes. And that is why you need to go back to the market.”
The puzzled look remained on Peter’s face. He wasn’t following Jesus’s train of thought… again. Maybe he was reading too much into Jesus’s body language and tone and mixed with his words, Peter wasn’t really sure what Jesus was talking about. “Oh. Well, that’s fine. What do I need to do, Jesus. Are the preparations not enough?”
Jesus looked again at the bottle, almost longingly, and then his expression changed to the determined look that Peter had seen many times before.
“You need to trade this wine in for some juice, first of all.”
“But that is from Lazarus’s sister, straight from their own vineyard, Jesus!”
“Yeah, well. We can’t accept it.”
That made Peter blink, Lazarus and his sisters were close friends to Jesus. They practically stopped in to see those three every time they were in the area. The food, the fellowship and the wine were excellent, especially after Jesus raised Lazarus. Maybe that was it, the wine was the problem?
“Well…ok, did the ‘drunkard’ accusations get to you?” Peter reclined opposite Jesus and tore a small piece of bread for himself.
“Well…no, it didn’t get to me, Peter. But the Father wants me to avoid all forms of evil, and we don’t want to cause people to stumble, now do we? So we need to change it up. Speaking of which, the whole ‘glutton’ accusation has to be done away with too, again, appearances of evil and all that.”
Peter thoughtfully swallowed his piece of bread and carefully tore another one, responding with an: “Okaaaay.” His tone was one of ‘where are you going with this, Jesus?’.
That’s when John walked in. Peter was relieved to see the other confidant of Jesus’s walk in.
“Oh hey there, beloved.” Peter said with a wink and a smile. “Come and join us, I think you need to hear this.”
“Sure thing, boat worshipper.” John said in response and lightly smacked Peter on the back on the head as he walked by. Peter looked sideways at John, half serious and they both chuckled. John sat down in like manner to Jesus and tore a small piece of bread off.
“Oh, did Martha stop by with this?” Jesus and Peter nodded.
Jesus resumed his talk, assuming John would catch up quickly. “So the plan is that we no longer host or attend any sort of communal feast or enjoy, meat, wine and bread.”
Peter and John both almost choked. Peter didn’t like the idea of fasting too much. A glutton he was not, but he was a bigger man due to his career, he expended a lot of energy from that way of life and he liked his food. Nowadays, walking for hours and days on end from one corner of Judea to the other, it was just as taxing on the body. How would they go without food? Sure Jesus fed all those people, but there was a least some food to start with for the miracle to occur. John was slightly more trusting, but going without food? John knew Jesus must have some sort of plan. John remained quiet, trying to catch up to whatever they were talking about.
Discerning Peter and John’s thoughts, Jesus responded. “Oh, don’t worry. We’ll still eat. Just in private now. We need to do completely away with wine, we don’t want to tempt the enemy with a way into our bodies, do we?”
John was confused, this was a weird plan. He thought back to when Jesus taught that it wasn’t food and drink going into the body that defiled them. John stayed quiet. What was Jesus up to here?
Jesus continued. “No more communing with everyone else. Now, I know what you are thinking: What about Pentecost? Well, the Father has a plan for that, which is what I’ve been trying to tell you regarding going to the market, Peter. I can’t share all of that with you now, but guys…” Jesus locked eyes with Peter and then John. “Things are going to change pretty seriously after Pentecost, so we will observe the Holy Day in a new way. Have a couple of the boys sent ahead to prepare the room and make sure we have grape juice and crackers.”
Peter broke out laughing, it was a joke, it had to be. They had all shared laughs with each other, some at each other’s expense, even Jesus. He was a good sport about it, the twelve had become a close-knit group. This had to be a joke.
“Good one, Jesus! Hahaha! Man, you had me going! You really had me going there until you threw in the crackers and grape juice thing…” Peter wiped some tears from his eyes. “Oh…I needed that laugh. Thank you, Jesus!”
John at first had thought he was joking too and had let out a short laugh, but quickly realized that Jesus wasn’t. He was serious.
“Crackers and grape juice…?” John asked.
“Yeah. Bread as unleavened and dry as you can find, as bland as you can find. And grape juice, make sure there is enough for me, you two and the other ten.”
“Seriously??” Peter was sobering up from the joke he thought was on him.
“Peter, I’m trusting you with this. I know you don’t understand, but you will…you will.”
Peter could see that Jesus was very serious. He wouldn’t have let a joke run this far without some sort of saving grace. “Forgive me, Lord. It shall be done.”
“Look, I know this is hard. We are supposed to have a feast prepared for the Passover and I had some good things to say, some really good things. I was really looking forward to what I had planned for all of us. But plans change. You know?”
“Good, now hurry before the market closes up for the Passover, soon the town will be practically empty as the caravans leave for Jerusalem. Tell the others and pick two out to go ahead of us and get things prepared, we don’t want to grieve the Spirit by not getting it right.”
Peter and John stood up and walked out of the room. It was the oddest interaction they had with Jesus to date.