“I Am Truly Pleasant to Read”: My Dialogue with Spambot

spambotEvery day I get several attempted comment posts at www.retrochristianity.com from Spambots. Of course, normally I just delete them. But today I decided to give Spambot an opportunity to be heard. Below, written in original Spambotese, is my conversation with Spambot:

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Dialogue of Peter and Boso on the Night of Christ’s Arrest (Part 2 of 2)

ArrestofJesus2[Author’s note: The following fictional “dialogue” between the apostle Peter and his interlocutor, Boso, concerns events leading up to and including the betrayal and arrest of Jesus on Thursday of Passion Week. For the setting, I imagine a recorded interview or informal deposition taking place in the modern day as Peter reflects back on his own perspective of events. Several gaps in the biblical story have been filled in with plausible explanations or outright speculations. I do not allege that my creative additions have any basis in demonstrable history.]

BOSO: Now go back to the garden that night of his arrest.

PETER: Okay.

BOSO: What did Jesus do after he asked you to watch and pray?

PETER: He wandered into the olive trees and began weeping, and throwing himself on the ground, and begging God to save him.

BOSO: What was he saying, exactly?

PETER: Well, we caught snippets of it. He wasn’t too far off, and we were originally trying to pray, but he was causing such noise that it was hard for us to do it. He was saying things like, “Abba!”… that means “Papa”… “You can do anything. Take this cup away from me. But let it be done the way you want, not the way I want.”

BOSO: And what were you praying?

PETER: Well, I started praying for him. I was concerned about him. He was convulsing, and shivering, and pounding on the ground. I just wanted him to have some peace. So I kept praying, “God, have mercy on him. Have mercy.” Then I fell asleep.

BOSO: You fell asleep?

PETER: We all did. James and John, too. James was actually snoring. Then Jesus crawled over to us and shook us awake. He was sweating like crazy. And it was cold out that night. A chill wind had blown down from the mountain. He didn’t look like himself. He looked like he had been rained on. I thought he had dipped his head in the cistern nearby. But it was sweat.

BOSO: What did he say to you?

PETER: He said, “Simon, why are you sleeping? Couldn’t you watch for even an hour with me? Keep watching. Keep praying. It’s the only way to keep you from stumbling. You have a willing spirit, but your flesh is weak.” So I tried to wake myself up and keep praying.

BOSO: Did Jesus go back to pray?

PETER: Yes. And I prayed, too, for a little while. But for some reason we were just exhausted. And I fell asleep again. I just couldn’t stay awake. Jesus shook me on the shoulder again and asked me to keep praying. I didn’t say anything. I just slapped myself in the face a few times and tried to wake up. But it didn’t work.

BOSO: You fell asleep again?

PETER: James and John, too. In fact, I don’t even think John woke up the second time Jesus came. He just moaned and stirred. I think he even said “Amen.”

BOSO: Then what?

PETER: The next time I woke up from a clank at the garden gate. I heard some voices through the trees and Jesus was kneeling beside us. He had a new look on his face. He was at peace. Something changed. He even smiled just a little at me. And I think he had tears in his eyes. He shook his head and said to us, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It’s over. Time’s up.” He pointed toward the commotion and started getting up onto his feet. And he said, “Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was still trying to clear my head. I rubbed my eyes and felt for my sword. Then he said, “Come on, get up. Time to go. Look. The one betraying me just showed up.”

BOSO: Who was he referring to?

PETER: Judas Iscariot. He had led the temple guards to the garden. You have to realize that the Mount of Olives had a bunch of walled gardens, back to back, side by side. The authorities knew Jesus and his disciples would often retreat there, but they had no way of knowing which garden we were in. And even if they figured it out, they couldn’t get through the gate. It was private property and without Roman permission the temple guards couldn’t just barge in on somebody’s locked garden. So Judas not only led them to the right garden, he also got the gate-keeper to open the gate from the inside and let him in. You see, they all knew us, so Judas’s face would have been familiar. I suppose the one who opened the gate thought Judas was just arriving late.

BOSO: Do you know who it was that let Judas into the garden that night?

PETER: Yes. It was John Mark, the son of Mary of Cyrene, the woman who owned the garden. Like I said earlier, Mark had been staying on the property that night in one of the servant’s quarters to make room for Passover guests at their home in the city. The olive garden was mostly his responsibility anyway. But he had been roused from his sleep and was visiting with the eight disciples near the gate when Judas came calling. He didn’t know Judas had brought soldiers until Judas already entered the garden. Poor Mark. He was still in his night clothes when Judas showed up.

BOSO: Then what happened?

PETER: Well, I followed behind Jesus. I was off to his right. James was on his left. And John was still wiping sleep from his eyes behind us. I saw Judas burst through the gate and head straight for Jesus. He kissed him on the cheek and said, “Rabbi!” As if he had been searching all over for him. Well, by this time soldiers had already started filing in through the gate. Judas sort of jumped back and acted, well, kind of like he was surprised to see soldiers there. He said, “What? Who?” And he stuck his hand out and opened his mouth like he was going to tell them to leave. Little Mark sort of backed behind a tree near the entrance. He wasn’t dressed for this. And the other disciples all stood up and started retreating back toward us.

BOSO: What did Jesus do? Did he try to escape?

PETER: No. At first he just ignored the soldiers and looked straight at Judas and shook his head. He said, “Oh, Judas. Is this how you betray me? With a kiss?” Of course, Judas acted offended. He put his hand on his chest and shook his head, as if Jesus was jumping to the wrong conclusion. As if the crowd just happened to follow Judas here. But Jesus just raised his hand and said, “Friend, you’ve come to do something. Just do it.”

BOSO: Then?

PETER: Then a couple soldiers with swords passed around Judas and headed for Jesus. They actually had ropes to bind him. Swords, ropes, and clubs. They obviously didn’t know Jesus. Then Jesus said, “Whom are you seeking?” One of the soldiers said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” They were quite close now. And Jesus said, “I am he.” And he reached out his hands to be bound!

BOSO: He offered himself up to be arrested?

PETER: Well, yes. But the soldiers thought he was pulling out a sword or something, because when he reached out his hands to surrender, they jumped back, startled. He tripped on the other soldier and by now so many had bunched up behind them that several actually fell backward onto the ground! A couple of the disciples laughed. But Judas helped the first soldier up.

BOSO: What were you doing at this time?

PETER: Well, I kept looking for a chance to strike. And this confusion seemed to offer me one. From behind me I heard John whisper, “Peter! Do something!” So just as the soldiers neared us, I said, “Lord, I have my sword…” But Jesus interrupted me and said to the soldiers who were getting up from the ground, “Whom do you seek?” They answered, “I told you already, Jesus of Nazareth.” And Jesus said, “And I told you I’m the one you’re looking for. I offered you my hands in peaceful surrender, but you’re coming at me with so many sticks and clubs and swords you can’t even walk without tripping on yourselves. Here I am. Take me. Only let these men go their way.”

BOSO: So you were just standing there?

PETER: Yeah. But the closer Jesus got to turning himself in, the worse I felt about it. So I assumed Jesus was just trying to stall. To give me a chance to strike. And while one of the High Priest’s men was nearby, peering past me deeper into the garden to see just how many men there were lurking in the dark, I realized I had to do something right away or nothing at all. Soldiers were still coming in through the narrow gate. I glanced over and saw at least six or seven of them already. Within a few seconds there would be too many for us to overcome and drive out of the garden. So I just acted. Impulsively.

BOSO: What did you do?

PETER: I whipped out my sword and swung it at the servant. I aimed for his neck… a death blow. But I’ve never been great with a sword. He turned away at the last second to dodge my swing and I sliced his ear off. His right ear. This one here. He shrieked. Definitely wasn’t expecting that. The soldiers suddenly pulled their swords and jumped back. The other disciples all turned to see what was happening. His ear just dangled there by the lobe. Judas actually caught him from falling and guards coming to arrest Jesus stopped in their tracks. But it worked. The guard coming through the gate stopped. The others behind him started mumbling. I shouted across the crowd, “Mark, close the gate!”

BOSO: So you were trying to take control?

PETER: It made the most sense. Somebody had to. Jesus was backing down. Surrendering! I took my place in front of Jesus and held the sword up above my chest with both hands. And then I heard Jesus’s voice in my ear behind me. As the soldiers inched closer, Jesus said, “Stop this, Peter. Put your sword away. You know better than this. If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword.”

BOSO: What did you do?

PETER: Nothing at first. I said, “But I told you before, I’ll fight and die for you.” But Jesus touched my forearm to lower the weapon and he whispered into my ear as he passed by me: “Don’t you know that I could call twelve legions of angels from heaven to wipe these men out? But everything in Scripture will be fulfilled.” So I lowered my sword and watched Jesus walk over to the temple servant, pass his hands over the side of his head, and re-attach the man’s ear. The bleeding stopped, no scar, nothing. He healed the man’s ear that I had lopped off.

BOSO: And what did you do?

PETER: I dropped my sword and ran. Ran. Immediately Jesus stepped forward again, his hands out in surrender.

Dialogue of Peter and Boso on the Night of Christ’s Arrest (Part 1 of 2)

[ArrestofJesusAuthor’s note: The following fictional “dialogue” between the apostle Peter and his interlocutor, Boso, concerns events leading up to and including the betrayal and arrest of Jesus on Thursday of Passion Week. For the setting, I imagine a recorded interview or informal deposition taking place in the modern day as Peter reflects back on his own perspective of events. Several gaps in the biblical story have been filled in with plausible explanations or outright speculations. I do not allege that my creative additions have any basis in demonstrable history.]

BOSO: Where were you the day Jesus was crucified?

PETER: I was hiding.

BOSO: Where?

PETER: With the Cyrenes.

BOSO: Okay. I guess I need us to back up a little, then. Go back to the Thursday before the crucifixion. You spent the Passover with Jesus and the rest of the disciples, correct?

PETER: That’s correct. We were all there. Most of us to the end.

BOSO: Most of you?

PETER: Yes. I saw Judas leave a little early. Jesus said something to him and he slipped out quietly. I just assumed he was going downstairs to take care of something in the house, but he never came back.

BOSO: What was the mood like during dinner?

PETER: Normally Passover is ponderous, but joyous. This one was, well, somber. It recalls our nation’s flight from Egypt, when the Lord passed over the Hebrew children and meted out judgment on the firstborn Egyptian children.

BOSO: I’m familiar with it. But what made this particular celebration so serious?

PETER: Jesus kept talking about his betrayal and arrest and execution. I guess I just couldn’t take it. He told us we were all going to fall away that night. He quoted from the prophet Zechariah: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But I wasn’t going to accept that. I said, “Even if everybody at this table falls away from you, I’ll never fall away.” And I meant it. I meant it with all my heart. But Jesus responded without skipping a beat—“Simon, listen to me. This night, before the rooster finishes its morning crowing, you’ll personally deny me three times.”

BOSO: Ouch. How’d that make you feel?

PETER: Horrible. Right in front of everybody. They all heard it. I think Nathaniel even snickered.

BOSO: So what’d you do?

PETER: Well, I had to save face in front of the rest of the disciples. I mean, that’s what I thought at the time. It was really pretty stupid. I just met Jesus’s challenge—that’s how I took it. I thought he was trying to challenge me, bring out a greater level of personal commitment. So I pounded on the table and said even louder, “Even if I need to die with you, I won’t deny you!” Then several of the other disciples agreed. Nathaniel even said, “Of course we’d die with you, Rabbi.”

BOSO: And what did Jesus say?

PETER: He just stared at me. It was a strange look, like he was looking straight through my eyes, reading my thoughts. I couldn’t keep my gaze fixed on his. All I knew is that I had made a promise and I would keep it no matter what. I wouldn’t abandon him that night, regardless of what happened.

BOSO: So what did happen, then?

PETER: Do you want me to tell you what Jesus said in that chamber? He said a lot of important things that…

BOSO: Actually, we have John’s testimony. I’ll cover that with him. I’m really interested in what happened after you left that upstairs room. Where’d you go?

PETER: Well, we left the home of Mary of Cyrene and headed across the KidronValley toward the garden.

BOSO: Whose garden?

PETER: Oh. It was her garden—the garden of Mary of Cyrene—the mother of John the younger—we call him “Mark” after his father. It also helped us later distinguish him from John, the son of Zebedee. It got old saying “John, bar-Zebedee,” so we just started calling him “John the elder” and John, son of Mary we called “John Mark,” or just “Mark.” Anyway, Mary of Cyrene, Mark’s mother, was also the aunt of Barnabas.

BOSO: That was the same family where you had the Passover supper, right? And with whom you had been trying to work out a deal to sell fish in Jerusalem.

PETER: Right. I was going to supply them, their guests, and their laborers with fish. See, her husband—the elder Mark—had passed by then, but Barnabas and some hired laborers, most of whom had moved in from Cyrene, helped run the olive press. I didn’t mention it, but they had a rather large home and enough space for us to hold the Passover meal. And they also owned the huge walled garden near the foot of the Mount of Olives. We often retreated there to pray and talk . . . and sleep. It was sort of our sanctuary. That night we went back to that garden—the whole lot of us, except Judas. Some of the hired workers often slept there during the nights, and Mary’s son, Mark, was there that night sleeping in order to make room for all the guests in the main home in Jerusalem. The accommodations at the garden were actually quite comfortable. We had stayed there often over the previous few years, and the family had become strong supporters of Jesus’s work.

BOSO: This is all very interesting. But please continue with your account. I think I got the big picture. I’ll ask you if I need more detail.

PETER: Sorry. Well, we all wanted to go to sleep, but Jesus wanted to pray. I mean, we had a large meal and several glasses of wine. We were tired. But Jesus asked James, John, and me to join him in prayer apart from the rest of the group.

BOSO: Describe, then, what happened.

PETER: Well, Jesus was obviously quite distressed. He said to us something like, “My heart is grieved to the point of death!” And he told us to remain there, keep watch for him, and pray that we didn’t fall into temptation.

BOSO: Did he tell you why he was so distressed?

PETER: No. We should have asked, but we didn’t. Remember, he had been talking about getting arrested and executed for some time… off and on.

BOSO: And you didn’t take him seriously?

PETER: Well, yes and no. We knew the authorities didn’t like him. And I mean the Jewish authorities, especially those in Jerusalem. They were afraid of him. Remember, they’d had a lot of experience with Messiah wannabes and zealots starting uprisings and riots. They weren’t hot on the idea of another group from Galilee stirring up trouble. So we knew they would love to keep him out of the city or even arrest him if they had some reason for it. But the Romans sort of found the Jewish concerns a bit annoying, even frustrating. They cared nothing for the debates among the Rabbis, and as long as people were peaceful, they didn’t care what they were teaching. In fact, on several occasions Roman soldiers or spies even listened in on Jesus’s teaching. They heard nothing but grace, repentance, peace, forgiveness, mercy, love. Jesus even told the crowd to pay all their taxes to Caesar! The Romans had no reason to arrest Jesus, much less crucify him.

BOSO: So why do you think Jesus kept talking about his being arrested and crucified? What were you and the rest of the Twelve thinking?

PETER: Well, Andrew and I actually had this conversation one night. We both thought Jesus was just acknowledging how controversial he was. We thought he was telling us that the potential was there for a major confrontation, like, “Boy, if I keep doing these things those people are going to want me dead!”

BOSO: But didn’t Jesus also mention rising again?

PETER: Yeah. In hindsight I guess we should have understood that better. He said he was going to be crucified and rise again on the third day. But you see, we all believed in the general resurrection on the last day—that all people, righteous and wicked, would be raised from their graves and judged or rewarded. We just thought Jesus was saying he was going to be arrested and executed, but that he would rise again in the resurrection.

BOSO: So in your mind “third day” meant “last day”?

PETER: Sort of. We didn’t know what that meant. Not one of us thought he literally meant on the third day after he died he would come back to life.

BOSO: I don’t understand. What did you think he meant by “third day”?

PETER: I don’t know. Matthew thought Jesus was making some kind of reference to the third day of creation in Genesis. That’s when God gathered water into one place, let the dry land appear, and then produced plants and trees on the dry land. He thought maybe Jesus was trying to say that separation of the wicked and righteous after the general resurrection was like the separation of the waters and the land . . . and that the plants and trees on the land was the symbol for the blessing of the righteous in the coming kingdom.

BOSO: Did you buy that?

PETER: Not me. But Matthew was always pretty good at coming up with these interesting interpretations. We used to call him the “pearl-stringer” because of the way he would weave together these passages. He knew his Scriptures, I’ll grant him that. But he sort of fancied himself a Rabbi of sorts.

BOSO: So Matthew was the only one with any kind of answer for what was meant by “the third day”?

PETER: Well, Thomas actually asked Jesus, “Master, is the ‘third day’ also ‘the last day’?” And the Lord answered, “Thomas, the third day is the first day.”

BOSO: Which meant?

PETER: Not a clue. We took it to mean we had no business asking that question. So we stopped. We figured he would tell us what he meant eventually.

BOSO: Did you have your own opinion about this?

PETER: Yeah. I actually thought by “day” Jesus meant “age.” So, the “first day” or “first age” began with creation and ended with the flood, when the heavens and earth at that time were destroyed with water. We’re now living in the second age until the Day of the Lord comes with fire. That judgment will bring the dawn of the third age, or the “third day.” This made the most sense to me.

BOSO: But none of you thought Jesus meant he was literally going to die one day and rise again a few days later—apart from the general resurrection of all humans?

PETER: Not a one of us. That category didn’t exist for us.

[To be concluded . . . ]