I was a theological liberal and checked. If Jesus provided fertilizer for flowers outside Jerusalem, then it is all meaningless. If, on the other hand, Jesus Christ resurrected, then it gives my life meaning and my faith is not in vain. I asked questions like: Why would I be willing to insist that the lie of the resurrection was true if I knew that every time I insisted it were true, I drove a nail into my own coffin? Why were there so many witnesses to the resurrection? Why did their witness hold water? Why not just show the corpse? How could I explain the amazing growth of the Christian church in the first three centuries of the Christian era?
If Jesus provided fertilizer for flowers outside Jerusalem, then it is all meaningless.
If you’re not a believer, check it out for yourself. The Gospel is simple: We’re messed up and if we run to Jesus, he’ll fix it. That’s it. You can be forgiven, you can have meaning in your life and you can live forever...because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is right there with you right now.
The fact is Easter doesn’t mean a thing unless it is Easter to you.
Let me introduce you to a man for whom Easter was very personal. His name is Peter. The women went to the tomb “And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:4-7, my emphasis).
There is incredible significance to the angel’s words: “Tell the disciples Jesus has risen...and don’t forget to tell Peter.”
Peter is an interesting person because he is so human (just like us) and because there is more about him than about any other of Jesus’ disciples.
You’ll remember Peter’s question to Jesus about forgiveness: “I’ve forgiven him seven times. That’s enough, right?” Jesus says, “Oh, Peter...you haven’t understood. Forgive him seventy times seventy.”
Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet (in John 13). As Jesus works his way closer and closer to Peter, Peter is sitting there, cussing and spitting. (I know because there is a lot of Peter in me.) When Jesus gets around to Peter, Peter says, “There is no way you’re going to wash my feet!” “Oh, Peter...” Jesus says.
Up on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter doesn’t know what to say...and so he goes ahead and says it: “I know what we should do. Let’s build a church!” You can see Jesus, shaking his head, and saying, “Oh, Peter...”
As the crucifixion draws near, Peter says to the others, “Let’s go to Jerusalem to die with him.” Again, Jesus just shakes his head, “Oh, Peter...”
Before the crucifixion, Jesus says to the disciples that they will all run away. Peter says, “Not me. These other guys might but I won’t desert you. You can count on me!” Jesus says, “Oh, Peter…before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter cuts off Malchus’ ear. And Jesus tells him to put the sword away.
After the resurrection—again this is so typical of Peter—Peter is fishing and the resurrected Christ is fixing breakfast on the seashore. Peter shouts, “It’s the Lord!” then puts on his clothes and jumps in the water. (Most people would have taken off their clothes!) Jesus smiles, turns over a fish and says, “Oh, Peter…”
But just before the crucifixion is one of the saddest portions of Scripture. Peter is in the courtyard and denies (with curses) knowing Jesus. At that moment, Jesus walks through the courtyard and the eyes of Jesus meet up with the eyes of Peter. You can see it, “Oh, Peter...my beloved Peter.”
After the resurrection, Jesus is concerned about Peter. Jesus knew Peter. He knew how devastated Peter was. He loved Peter. And he wanted Peter to know it, so he singled Peter out. When Peter heard the words, he must have rejoiced in his forgiveness.
The three women came to the tomb...to find it empty. They meet an angel—a messenger from Jesus.
In my mind’s eye, I can see the resurrected Christ, leaving the tomb and giving instructions to the angel: “I’ve got to go but tell the women to tell the disciples that I’ll meet them in Galilee and then we’ll have a party.” Jesus starts to leave but then turns back to the angel and says, “Oh, and make sure that you tell Peter I’ll meet him too. If you don’t specifically mention beloved Peter, he won’t show.”
What happened in the tomb on that day is not only a particular incident; it is also a pattern. It is the pattern of the way Jesus—the dead man who got up and walked—deals with you and me. And we can identify with Peter.
Peter Messed Up
Really messed up. Peter sinned by denying Jesus, by unbelief, and by lying and protecting himself. And Jesus said, “Tell the disciples I’ll meet them in Galilee...and don’t forget to tell Peter.”
Every one of us has a secret that, if everybody else knew, we would be absolutely inconsolable in shame.
I’m an old guy. I’ve listened to a lot of confessions over the years. I’ve realized the truth of Scripture that “no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).
I remember the note: “Dear Steve, I love you but I’m leaving. I just can’t do it anymore...I’m not good enough. I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else.” I don’t know what happened to her. I keep thinking that maybe she’ll show at one of the many places where I speak. And I pray for her sometimes that Jesus would go to her the way he went to Peter, letting her know that she’s forgiven.
An old woman shrunk away from the communion table. The priest beckoned her forward, put the cup to her mouth and said, “Take it! It’s for sinners, woman, it’s for you.”
Are you messed up? Me too. Jesus still says, “I’ll meet you. I love you. And don’t forget to tell...Bill, Karen, Cathy, Carlos, Cindy and Steve...that they’re forgiven.”
Peter had an opportunity to stand for Jesus but, instead of standing, he caved. That would be bad enough—it happened with the other disciples—but Peter made it worse by being the one to claim, “Jesus, these others will fail you but not me. When you need me, I’ll have your back. I’ll be there.” Then Peter fails and fails miserably.
A friend of mine was once a missionary in Africa. Then he failed big time morally. I tried to reach him but he fell off the face of the earth. Years later, I got a call from my friend. “Steve,” he said, “I was afraid you wouldn’t take my call. I’m driving a semi and getting back with Jesus now. This truck is like having a moving condo. In my cab, I’ve got a television, a bed and a Bible…and I’m reading it again.” I told him, “I’m so glad you called. I tried to reach you years ago. Jesus told me then and I guess I’ll tell you now: Jesus was never angry at you. He said he already knew.” Then my friend started crying and hung up the phone. He called back later, apologized for hanging up and crying, and then said, “You have no idea how much what you told me meant to me...pray for me.” I did. A month later, I got a message that my friend had died of a heart attack. He’s Home now...and he entered heaven’s gates as a failure.
Can you identify? I certainly can. I can’t tell you how often I’ve compromised.
Jesus is still doing what he did for Peter. “I’ll meet you. I love you. Don’t forget to tell...Jada, Robert, Claire, Manuel, Jennifer and Steve...that they’re forgiven.”
Peter was Dying
Peter was a dying man. Jesus knew that Peter’s death was not going to be pleasant and Peter would be scared. Jesus said, “Tell the disciples that I’ll meet them in Galilee...and don’t forget to tell Peter.”
There is an apocryphal story about Peter who was in Rome during the persecution. As Peter fled, he met Jesus who asked, “Where are you going?” Peter looked back in shame and said, “I’m returning to Rome and I will die as you died.” With that, Peter returned to Rome and was crucified upside down...because he wasn’t worthy to die as Jesus did.
Death is scary for all of us. You know the joke: “The good news is that you’re going to heaven. The bad news is that you’re going on Thursday.”
None of us are going to get out of this alive. The statistic is one out of one. That is scary. It wakes us up in the middle of the night in a deep sweat.
Jesus still does for us what he did for Peter. That is what Easter is all about. “Go tell Peter…Jack, Elizabeth, Tim, Maria and Steve...that I’ll meet them and we’ll have dinner together at Home.”
So run to Jesus in your failure. He’s waiting.
Jesus says, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus has promised. Jesus has risen.
Time to Draw Away
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-17 & Romans 8:1-17
Can you identify with Peter? Do you believe—really believe—that the Gospel is as simple as “running to Jesus”? In Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s love secured our forgiveness, acceptance, meaning and eternal life. So run to Jesus in your failure. He’s waiting.