Some time ago, I was preparing a talk on the Resurrection based on the Gospel account in the Book of John. I began to wonder how Peter, Jesus’ disciple, may have felt as he learned of Jesus' death on the cross, and then witnessed His resurrection. What would I have felt had I been him? The following were my speculations which I wrote as a first person narrative. I tried to stay true to the Gospels, specifically John 19-21, but clearly I took license with regard to what Peter may have been feeling. I encourage you to read the passages in John on your own, and perhaps answer the question—how would you have reacted if you had been there?
I promise this will be the longest blog I will ever record, but I hope you won’t be discouraged by its length! Have a blessed Easter!
My name is Peter.
You may remember me as the one who denied Jesus three times. I don’t listen to the sound of a rooster crowing the way you may. It is a reminder to me of who I once was. But I have a story to tell you. I am a different man today, because one Sunday, everything changed. But I must take you back to the days before Sunday for you to understand.
On Friday I was grieving. But it was more than grief from knowing that my Lord had died a horrible and painful death. I was grieving because of my shame and my guilt. What kind of person was I? I thought I had known.
You may have heard the story that three years ago, I saw Jesus draw so many fish to my nets that they began to break. I had fallen at His knees. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” I committed to leave everything to follow Him. Many of you have been impressed by my boldness. It has been used as an example of how willing we must be to put Jesus before everything in our lives. Unfortunately, despite my good intentions, I still had a lot to learn about the cost of following Him.
Over the course of the next three years, my Lord and I had become close. I had come to love Him, and believe He was the long-awaited Messiah. I had witnessed many miracles. He had given many signs of who He was. He declared time and time again “I AM”. That was the name God gave Himself when He spoke to Moses. I AM. And yet, I failed to understand the full import of what my Messiah had come to do. I was caught in my own circumstances. I wanted a different kind of Messiah. I was clouded by the desires of my own sinful heart. If you are honest with yourselves, perhaps there was a time that you also had painted a different picture of who you wanted your Messiah to be.
So when my Lord told me and the other disciples that He would be leaving, I asked in all sincerity, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you?”
I was insulted when He replied “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
How ridiculous, I thought. Disown him. Never!
Earlier that same evening, I had been appalled at the thought that He would wash my feet. Only a slave could wash the feet of his master. Jesus was my Lord. What kind of Lord acts like a servant? And yet, when He told me that unless He washed me, I would have no part of Him, I wanted Him to wash not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well—so great seemed my love.
I thought I would follow Him anywhere, but when things got hard, I realized the price of following was great.
He knew that it would be hard, and the temptation to abandon Him great. He warned us. At the Garden of Gethsemane, He instructed us to “pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He knelt down in prayer, and modeled this for us, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
But when He came to us after his time of prayer, we had let our sorrow exhaust us, and had fallen asleep.
Again, He had said, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
How much clearer could He have been? I needed to be praying. I needed to pray that I could be strong and faithful. I needed to pray, as He had, that I could do the will of the Father, whatever that was. But I fell asleep. I now know the importance of being on my knees.
My Lord knew that I needed to be sustained in prayer to face the trials ahead, but I had ignored His pleas. So much of what He had said, I had ignored. It was so hard for me to let go of my own ideas of what a Messiah should be.
He prayed for us, His disciples, and then we left and crossed the Kidron Valley. It was there that the terror began. We met a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were led there by Judas, the very one that my Lord had known would betray Him. There must have been over 600 men with torches, lanterns and weapons. I wanted Jesus to take them on with power and might. I, myself, drew my sword, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. How tough I thought I was! And yet how silly I must have looked to my Lord, who knew that He could have called down a battalion of angels at that very moment. But my Lord let me know that was not the will of God for Him. He was obedient, and willing to drink the cup the Father -- His father -- had given Him. I was not obedient. I wanted that battalion of angels.
They arrested my Lord. and I followed. But when we got to the high priest’s courtyard, I could not go in, and had to wait outside at the door. I was afraid. All of this should not have been going on. This trial was illegal. Jesus had not done anything wrong. It was craziness! The chill in the air cut through my skin, and I thought, how bad could it be to just warm up by the fire? So I moved away from the door, and I stood with the the enemies of my Lord. At one point I even sat down with them. I warmed myself by their fire. How easy it was to slip to the side of the enemies. So when the servant girl asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” I was already in enemy territory, and I answered, “I am not.”
I felt bad, but not bad enough to move from the fire. The enemy camp seemed so warm. What harm would it be to stay there? It was so easy to distance myself from Jesus. Two more times, just as my Lord had predicted, I denied Him. At that moment a rooster began to crow. My Lord then did something that I will never forget: He looked straight at me. He knew who I was. He knew my sin. I went outside and wept bitterly.
I had no hope. Friday was beginning to dawn.
My Lord knew my weaknesses. My Lord knew how small my faith was. My Lord knew that I had not prepared myself for how hard it would be to follow Him. My Lord knew how sinful my heart really was. My tears consumed me. I was captive to my sinful nature. I was bound by guilt and shame. I could only look to the ground.
Again, it all happened so quickly. Hadn’t we just eaten Passover dinner? But only a few hours later Jesus was under arrest. He was condemned in a hasty trial in the high priest’s palace in the still of the night. His fate was sealed after early-morning transfers to Pilate, then Herod, then back again to Pilate. By 9:00A.M. soldiers were pounding nails into his hands and feet, lifting Him upright on a cross to let him hang. Onlookers watched my Lord die as a common criminal in the unnerving chill of this very dark Friday.
And I was not there. I had not gone the rest of the way to Calvary. I wasn’t with Him when He died for I had not followed Him to the cross. I had abandoned Jesus.
He had been mocked, flogged and falsely accused. While we Jews sentence with stoning, He was crucified by the Romans. I had not believed Him when He told me this would happen.
My world had collapsed overnight.
My Savior was dead, and I was filled with guilt and shame. How could I go on? I had no hope.
What good was a dead Savior? How could the Messiah, the heir of David's throne, be executed? It went against all logic. It was impossible — yet it had happened, and oh so swiftly!
It was only Friday.
There was a veil in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies—the inner sanctuary. Inside are cherubim with their wings spread over the mercy-seat. Those outside the veil, gathered in the Temple, could only imagine what lay on the other side. I later learned that an unseen hand took hold of that veil and tore it apart from top to bottom. In one moment, the Holy of Holies was open to all. That was the moment that my Lord died on the cross.
Yet there was so much I did not understand on Friday. He had promised eternal life, He had promised He would always be with us, but all I could see was that they had crucified my Lord. Jesus was dead.
He was put in the tomb of a rich man, and buried, and the Roman guards stood watch. Did they really think that I, or the others, would roll away the rock and take the body?! Why would we do that? What would that accomplish? He would still be dead. I had no use for a dead savior.
I slept fitfully Friday. Saturday night, our Sabbath, also brought little sleep to my body, and when my eyes opened Sunday morning, the doom of death was heavy upon me. It was still dark.
Then suddenly there was a knock on the door and someone calling John and me. It was the voice of Mary Magdalene.
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” While Mary was alone at this moment, she clearly had others with her when she arrived at the tomb—for she said “we” don’t know. These faithful women had gone early to the tomb to service His body with fragrant spices as was customary in our time. They wanted to show and demonstrate their devotion. Mary and the other women had been at the cross. They had followed Him to Calvary.
Immediately I wondered, who has taken Him? All the disciples were accounted for. We slammed the door behind us, and began to run through the narrow streets, out the city gate, and then on to the tomb.
John, who was a lot younger, outran me and arrived first. But I wasn’t far behind, and there it was—the great stone that had sealed the tomb stood open. John waited outside, and I went in first.
The strips of linen that had wrapped his body were lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. That seemed odd. If my Lord’s body had been stolen, why would anyone have taken the time to fold up the cloths? I am so glad I was not the only one to have seen this. John went in as well, and he too can testify of what we had seen. The light was beginning to dawn.
Although John believed that Jesus had risen having seen the empty tomb, I was not sure what to believe. We left Mary at the tomb crying, and we went to our own homes.
While dawn was breaking, I still did not understand. I was a sinful man. Confused. I had so wanted a Messiah who would rescue us from Roman oppression. While I knew the Scriptures and all the promises of God for the coming Messiah, I was blinded by my own desires. I did not want to remember Jesus’ own references that He would raise the Temple in three days. So I wondered, who could have taken His body?
It was, however, Sunday. It was the day that changed everything. What a difference a day makes.
Then Mary again came running. She had the most incredible story. Ten of us were together—Judas had taken his life, and Thomas was not with us.
“I have seen the Lord!” she exclaimed. What, how could this be?
She went on to explain that as she looked into the tomb, she saw two angels in white. They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She expressed to them the grief we were all feeling, and yet for her, it was so personal, so filled with love.
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
As she turned around, Jesus was standing there. At first she didn’t know it was He. She said she thought He was the gardener.
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Jesus asked.“Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” I chuckled at the thought of this woman doing that—and yet I know she meant it with all sincerity.
“Mary!” He called to her.
In that instance she knew it was our Lord. He said her name. As I reflect now, I see that Mary was one of His faithful sheep. I have remembered His words, “When the Good shepherd brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” She knew His voice.
Mary wanted so much to hug Him, and not let him go, but He instructed her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father but go to my brothers and say to them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, and to My god and your God.”
Mary, acting in obedience, did just that. She came to us and told us.
While I knew Mary, and could appreciate her love and devotion, she was a woman. I could not accept her testimony as truth. More evidence would have to be given for me to believe that He was alive.
And yet I had no answer for the question, where was His body?
We were afraid. What would the Jews do when they found out the body was gone? Wouldn’t they come looking for us? We locked the door in fear. Mary had just told us that our Lord was alive, and yet we cowered like babies. We, who swaggered with great bravado, debating which one of us would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. We, who had given up home and occupation to be taught by the greatest of Rabbis, who had seen five loaves and two fish feed 5,000, who healed the sick ourselves, who cast out demons in our teacher’s name, who even saw the dead raised to life, were afraid of what mere men could do.
And then He, my Lord, was there among us. Wasn’t the door locked? But He did not need a key to enter. He simply was there. He wasn’t a ghost. He showed us His hands and His side.
The reality hit me. My Lord had conquered death. The light was becoming brighter.
“Peace be with you.” He said. He showed us his hands and side, and I was overjoyed.
Two times he said, “Peace be with you.”
And I knew— Peace was with us, before us, and in us. It was the first of three gifts He gave to us that evening.
I felt him speaking as if it were to me alone. Could it be that He was telling me that my sins were forgiven? Days later He would confirm this message to me again. I had thought my greatest need was to have my circumstances and suffering removed. I realized then, that my greatest need was to have my guilt and shame removed. Yet, before this moment, there had been no means for that to happen. If Jesus remained in the ground, I would have died a depressed, guilt-ridden fisherman.
“Peace be with you.” I knew what He meant. He was alive, and I was forgiven.
His authority to grant peace was demonstrated by His hands and His sides. I knew in that instance that the reason He could offer me peace was because His blood covered all my sins. It covered my pride, it covered my anger, it covered my lies, and it even would cover my denial of Him. It does not matter what I had done, He could forgive me.
What a difference that day made. Sunday changed everything. I was given Peace. And I did nothing to earn it.
But that Sunday He gave us two more precious gifts. He gave us power and purpose.
Jesus said to us. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, He breathed on us and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Several weeks later, My Lord would pour out the Holy Spirit when He ascended into heaven, but He was assuring us that just as God breathed life into Adam at creation, He would breath a new life into us. I had learned that on my own I could do nothing. But with His power, who knows what I could do!
And then, He gave us His purpose for us. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
He sent me, as He sends you, to tell the world of this good news. His authority was demonstrated by His power over death. He is the one who is alive. I knew that I had a new purpose.
I know that you were not there to witness, as I was, the resurrection of my Lord, but I pray that you see there is ample evidence for you to believe.
First, The Resurrection of Jesus should not have been a surprise to us. Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection. He told us that He would “suffer many things…be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” We, however, were devastated because in our grief and pride, and we failed to remember this prediction. I was fearful and without hope because I forgot, not because my Lord did not tell me.
Second, the Resurrection was verified by many witnesses apart from me, hundreds in fact.
Third, the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus showed up in our lives. I was not in any frame of mind to launch a worldwide following of Jesus after His death. Once we witnessed the Resurrection we became committed to spread the gospel first in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and ultimately to the ends of the earth. I have been mocked, persecuted, and imprisoned. I am willing to die in order to spread the gospel. What has changed in my life? Simply, I know that He is not in the grave. It is often said, no one dies for a myth. Well that is not exactly right. People do die for myths and cults, but they don’t die if they know it is a myth. If it had been a myth, I would have known. I was there. If it was a myth, all anyone had to do was produce the body. But they didn’t, because they couldn’t.
But there is other evidence. There is still in your midst, the testimony of those that have had an encounter with the living Lord. Blessed are you that believe without seeing and accept those testimonies. Yet I know there are some of you like Thomas, who need to feel the holes—who need to see the power of God in a very personal way. My Lord is gracious and patient. If you have an open heart to believe, my Lord will provide the evidence you need. Pray for it.
Unlike all the other notable historical figures, Jesus is unique. He stands above all other figures in history. Although He is a historical figure, the others are dead, and my Lord is alive.
He is the unique resurrected Savior of the world.
And if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, that Sunday changed everything. Death has been defeated by a genuine, observed event in history, not by a fanciful dream that someone has conjured up. This gives us the assurance to trust His promise that all who believe in Him will one day be resurrected to everlasting life.
Without Sunday I would have died a depressed fisherman, reminded my entire life by the crow of a rooster that I betrayed my teacher and friend. But a day changed everything. Because He is alive, He will be with me for eternity. This I know for sure. And I have a new purpose—to follow Him and to share my story with anyone who will listen, as I am today.
Finally, you may ask, if Jesus is alive, where is He? Many ask me that when they observe the sinfulness and evil in this world. I can tell you He is here in our midst, waiting for you to open your hearts and let Him in. There is not a locked door in the world that can keep Him out. He wants to be with you. My Lord can go where no counselor, doctor, spouse or friend can go. What evidence do I have? Simply, the greatest evidence that I have that my Lord is alive is that I cannot imagine living a day without Him.
One Sunday changed everything.