It’s funny how you can read a passage of Scripture a million times and something new will stand out every time. For whatever reason, Luke 24:1-12 has been my go to Easter passage. Obviously, all of the accounts of the resurrection are great, but Luke’s account has always been my favorite. Partially because of the “Why do you seek the living among the dead” line in verse 5, because I sincerely believe that is one of the most profound questions ever asked in human history, and because of the answer given to that question in verse 6, “he is not here, but has risen” which is the most profound answer ever given to a question in human history.
But this morning, while we read the Easter account from Luke in church, I started to look at Easter from Peter’s perspective. Verse 12 is one I have always heard and read, but maybe one I have skipped over. After thinking about it this morning, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again. Verse 12 says that “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
I guess for whatever reason I’ve always separated the life of Christ, the crucifixion, and the resurrection in my mind. Maybe compartmentalized them all, but this morning it hit me. They’re not separate. They did not happen independently of one another. So all the stuff that Peter said and did carried over to the crucifixion day and then to the resurrection day. And that rocked my world.
We’ve all done and said many, many stupid things. Thankfully, I have never had to deal with the hurt of saying or doing something stupid to someone and then losing them. But Peter did. Think back to Luke 22:54-62. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times, and Peter did it. And to make matters worse, Jesus saw him do it. You know that moment where you were talking about someone, only to realize they were in the next room and able to hear every word you have said? Maybe you haven’t experienced that, but my incredibly loud voice kind of makes secrecy difficult. That kind of thing has happened to me several times. And then you have to go through the whole awkward phase of either explaining what you said and owning up to it or just lying your way out of it (as a person who has tried both options, I fully recommend owning up to it). Well, that’s what happened hear. Except the guy in the next room was Peter’s best friend and was being sentenced to death, and Peter is claiming to have never met the guy. Then, to make matters worse, we have no account of Peter being present at the cross as Jesus is being crucified.
So, quick recap – Jesus was one of Peter’s closest friends, Peter denied him, got caught red handed, and then wasn’t there at the cross.
I imagine Peter was feeling like crap. That seems like the kind of thing you might learn to live with in time, but you never get over. How many times have you heard someone who has lost someone say “and the last thing we did was fight”? That’s probably what Peter was feeling like. Just the lowest of the low.
But then, a few days after his friend died, he hears that the tomb is empty! Jesus wasn’t there! And what does Peter do? He takes off, running, to see for himself. Luke tells us he stooped and looked into the tomb, John tells us Peter actually went into it.
And it was empty.
His friend was…alive?
We go on to see this beautiful scene where Jesus is sitting on the shore, talking to the disciples from a distance. Peter realizes it’s Jesus and strips down and swims to the shore to see him. Then there’s this great conversation where Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times and Jesus encourages him and compels him to follow Him again.
So I thought about Peter. A lot. I thought about how Jesus, knowing full well what would happen in the events leading to the crucifixion, told Peter he’d be the rock on whom the church was founded. He went through the whole Upper Room discourse, encouraging the disciples and showing them servant love. And he did all of this knowing full well every single one of them, including Peter, would deny him. They’d leave him in his worst moment.
Yet despite all of this, God used Peter in an incredible way to begin and strengthen the church.
I think about that a lot. I think about how many times I deny Christ, both in my words and in my actions. But even in denial, Jesus calls us to come back to him. Come back and see that the tomb is empty – that redemption is happening! Come back and see that Jesus is alive!
God knew all of the times I would turn my back on Him. He knew all of the times I’d deny Him with my words, my spirit, and my actions, yet he redeemed me anyway. My sin does not surprise Him, and just as He compelled Peter to follow Him, so He compels me.
The weight of that hit me like a ton of bricks this morning, and it’s been one of those things I’ve been pondering over for most of the afternoon. As usual, I did not express what I was thinking in the way I wanted to, but still…the significance of Luke 24:12 is huge.
As is the significance of Easter.
Christ is risen. This changes everything.