The Conversion of the private investigator S Patron Saint

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The Conversion of the private investigator S Patron Saint

25 October | 537 views

Chapter 14 of Mark’s Gospel tells how the bold and courageous actions of the apostles John, Peter and Mark when Jesus Christ was arrested laid the foundations for the strategies used by private investigators today. The Gospel narratives of Christ’s arrest are a historical eyewitness account of the birth of the detective profession. So, it is not St. Peter’s betrayal that we should consider, but the first recorded use by detectives of the period of the private investigation method known as Conversion.

A new age is dawning. Roman civilization is flourishing. Laws are being written and codified. Chapter 14 of Mark’s Gospel, better known as the narrative of Christ’s Passion, actually contains a coded procedure for gathering evidence regarding the most serious crime at the time – attacking the purity of religion.

“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So He sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” See (Mk 14:13-16).

Knowing that he would be arrested that night, Jesus gives two of his disciples their first practical lesson in the basics of undercover surveillance.

In revealing these undercover surveillance strategies to his disciples, Jesus is training His foremost apostles for their future trial by Conversion. Conversion is a barely perceptible shift in a person’s identity. It would help Peter, as the future rock of the Church, to strengthen by his example other followers who, like him, have also willingly Converted and wish to secretly pursue their objective.

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 Mk.1:17  Mk.14:13-16

Following Jesus’ secret sign, just like secret agents, the apostles Peter and John, armed with swords, set off after the man carrying the jar of water. To ensure security, Jesus gives the apostles a password by which they will be able to identify the master of the house – “My time is near” (Mt 26:18).

Despite the Lord’s instruction (Lk 9:1-6, Lk 22:36-38) that they should rely entirely on peaceful methods, the apostles, realizing how dangerous their journey will be, independently acquire two Roman swords. It is Mark, a disciple of Peter and one of the Seventy Apostles, who procures the weapons.

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Lk. 22:36-38 Mk. 14:47

After celebrating the Passover, Jesus and his disciples set off for the Garden of Gethsemane. The exhausted disciples quickly fall asleep. Judas knows the place where Jesus usually spends time with the apostles, so he finds Him easily. Judas is accompanied by a crowd of armed men: a detachment of the Roman cohort with a commander (300–400 men), servants of the High Priest, curious bystanders (as always) and slaves “with torches and lamps”.

Judas walks up to Jesus and says, “Greetings, Rabbi!” The provocateur realizes from the crowd’s reaction that he has failed to draw any sign of apostasy (as the most serious crime against faith was known) from the “accused”.

Judas greets the Teacher again and “establishes” his evidence with a loud (smacking) kiss. In response to the second greeting, Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man and confirms Himself to be the Messiah in the presence of the Chief Priests and officers of the temple guard and elders.

No one can bring himself to arrest Jesus. A slave named Malchus, taking advantage of the confusion that ensues, attempts to seize Jesus. The disciples flee – even John, who is armed. Only Peter stays near the Teacher. He is the only person who comes to his Teacher’s defense. Without hesitation he draws his sword and swings it at Malchus, cutting off his right ear (Mk 14:47).

Wounded and covered in blood, Malchus collapses at Peter’s feet. Jesus touches the slave and heals his wound. Then he reproaches Peter, ordering him never again to take up armed resistance.

And so Jesus is arrested. Peter and John, His disciples and fellow-travelers, secretly follow the guard under cover of darkness. Far ahead they can see flames flickering and people silhouetted against them. The future apostles have remembered their lesson when they shadowed the man carrying the jar of water. That is why Peter, sensing danger, brings his disciple Mark the Evangelist with him (the man who procured the swords). At Peter’s instruction, the young man flings “a linen garment over his naked body”.

The guards become aware that young Mark is tracking them and they attempt to seize him. Mark evades capture, leaving the guards holding his light garment (Mk 14:51–52). Peter’s calculations prove to be correct – the escort guards think no one else is following them. Peter and John continue their undercover surveillance of the guards escorting Jesus. Peter’s disciple, the apostle Mark, hides in the garden.

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Mk 14:51, 52 Mk 14:54

John accompanies Peter as far as the entrance to the High Priest’s palace. The guards know John and, at his request, they let Peter into the courtyard. John walks away, leaving Peter alone.

Peter assumes a different identity (Conversion) and remains unnoticed in enemy territory until morning. He sits by the fire in order to be close to Jesus, who is sitting not far away in the darkness of the courtyard (Mk 14:54). Peter has to see how this will end.

It is almost dawn. A maidservant questions Peter carefully and subtly. The apostle’s answers are brief, but this is enough to arouse suspicion because he has a Galilean accent (he pronounces the hard “g” sound). Peter realizes that it is not safe for him to stay here and heads for the entrance. But another servant girl blocks his way and she starts questioning him too. So as not to arouse suspicion further, Peter comes back and sits down by the fire again to continue his surveillance of Jesus.

This act of Conversion causes Peter to feel extremely anxious. When the new day dawns, after Jesus has been led out for questioning, Peter leaves the courtyard, covering his face with his hands against the daylight (so as not to be recognized). No one follows him.

Peter does his very best to carry out Jesus’ instructions. He leaves the house of Annas and Caiaphas and sets up a watching post on the western side of the Mount of Olives, which has a good view of the road from Jerusalem to Golgotha. Here Peter waits for the Romans to lead Him out, so that, seeing Peter, they will “force him to carry the cross”.

The Romans have forced Jesus and the brigands to carry their crosses (Mk 15:20). A Roman centurion marches in front, followed by the condemned men, guarded by a small detachment of soldiers, and behind them the triumphant Sanhedrin and a vast crowd of people. Jesus’ friends and followers have joined the procession; these include His mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas (Jn 19:25), Salome (Mk 15:40) and the apostle John.

Jesus becomes weary under the weight of His cross, and He starts to fall. Simon Bar-Jonah (Peter) has been waiting for this moment, and he slips out to join the crowd – casually, but in such a way that the guards notice him. He meets the escort just as they are leaving the city, at the city gates (Mt 27:32). Seeing Peter, the soldiers halt the procession in order to force him to carry the cross (Mk 15:21). A guard makes Jesus walk in front. Peter follows the Lord.

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Mk: 15:20  
Acts 5: 1–10

To the sound of women weeping and wailing (Lk 23:27), the temporarily halted procession moves off again. Without wasting any time, Peter tells the head of the escort that he should not order his subordinates “to break His bones”.

The Sadducees demand that Pilate complete Jesus’ execution by sunset, i.e. before the Passover feast begins. The executioners break the legs of the first two “brigands” with their swords. “But when they came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs” (Jn 19:31–33).

Having taken on another identity, having Converted, Simon Peter withstood the trial of intense interrogation and mocking glances. The turmoil of his supposedly disgraceful denial was actually a triumph, a brilliant practical application – the first in history – of the private investigator’s technique of Conversion.

Two thousand years ago, in the Parable of the Sword, the Lord Jesus reproached His apostles that the path He had set them upon was only a quarter of the way. The most important part was what happened next. For a private detective, the most important part is that once you have chosen this profession, there is no going back. But where is a detective supposed to go once the investigation is finished, the shadows have been dispersed, and the wrongdoers have been brought to justice?

We find an answer in Acts 5: 1–10, where Peter, investigating a civil case, individually questions some merchants who have concealed the profits from the sale of a property. In the course of this armchair investigation, the suspects confess fully to their complicity in the commission of the crime. On the one hand, Peter the apostle is not a judge, nor is he a state investigator with a remit to investigate citizens.

However, he goes about questioning the merchants in the way favoured by private investigators today – in his office, in the presence of two witnesses. It follows that private investigations can be conducted in different ways: some detectives prefer to work ‘in the field’, whereas others do their investigating without leaving their desk, which is obviously preferable in many respects, as it is in our offices that many of us offer consultations.

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