I adore Peter. And I can so relate to the disciple who was chastised more than any, but still got out of the boat and walked on water, albeit briefly. I’ve pondered his grief for denying Jesus many times and wondered what might’ve happened with him and the apostles after Jesus was crucified. (All fled but John) This is Peter’s story with a little help from me. kcs
My brother Andrew saw him first. He was over by the Jordan River when John the Baptist called Jesus of Nazareth the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Andrew rushed home saying he had found the Messiah.
We are regular people. Fishermen by trade. Not central to anything of importance. Yet when I met Jesus I knew greatness was amongst us. When he spoke about the Torah, it was like hearing it for the first time; his words carried more authority than anyone at the temple. “You are Simon, the son of Jonah,”he said to me. “You shall be called Peter.” Peter means “rock.” I admit, I puffed up pretty good.
No one could stop talking about him. Jesus—such a common name for a man we hoped would be the salvation for Israel. So, the day he found us casting nets, we left and walked with him down by the other fishing boats and over to where our friends James and John were mending nets. They waved and Jesus called them off the boat. “I’ll make you fishers of men,” he said, and we all felt sure that he could. James and John left their father Zebedee and joined us to follow Jesus.
I can’t say why I wanted to be his disciple. I can’t even say why he chose me. I wasn’t a particularly religious man. I wasn’t even a particularly good man. But then, I had always compared myself to the religious men of the day; men who looked down on the sinful fisherman. And oddly, Jesus didn’t have much to do with the devout men I thought were more righteous than me. I admit that made me feel good. I felt like a good man when I was with him, and I wanted to be better.
Better than what? – A foul-mouthed fisherman!
Tears have been flooding my face for how long?–I’ve no idea. I lay prostrate reminiscing, ripping my clothes, pulling at my hair, screaming into the night. Olive trees and greenery surround me on the rocky soil of the Mount of Olives, where Judas brought the mob that took Jesus away earlier. The Garden of Gethsemane it is called; supposedly a peaceful place. I look around on this darkest night that had started so beautifully at the Passover meal. All of us together with Jesus. “This is my body which is given for you,” He broke bread, gave thanks, and passed some to each of us. “Do this in remembrance of me.” He took the cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you and for many. Do this for the remembrance of me.” All of us looked at each other, afraid to ask what he meant.
I pull at my hair, hurting myself, wanting to hurt, tearing my tunic. How could he not be the Christ? He knew all of us when he called us to be disciples, telling us things about ourselves. John the Baptist called him the Son of God. And no one was Godlier than John.
I try to rub the tears from my eyes, but it’s useless. The more I rub the more I think of him, the more the tears fall. A handful of us started following Jesus—Andrew, James, and John, of course, but also Bartholomew and Philip. Jesus had already gained a reputation, preaching and telling people to, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Six other disciples soon followed: Thomas, Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alpheus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the Greater, and Judas Iscariot. We are, or we were, a band of renegades, coming from many walks of life, and doing works beyond any of our imaginations.
I felt important when I was with him, but that’s not the reason I stayed. His words resonated within my soul; a truth that spoke to my heart and calmed my sometimes-angry spirit. I slam my fist to the ground, bawling. Hearing the shuffle of feet, I look up to see Andrew walking toward me. He gets down on his knees and tries to cradle my body with his arms, but I roll away from him, denying myself his comfort. “I betrayed him, Andrew. Three times, I denied him, just like he said.”
Andrew sets back on his haunches. “Really?” He is silent for a time while I continue crying. “I don’t know why I’m always amazed when things happen just like he says. It’s like he sees the future.”
“He kn . . . He knows the future,” I say, blubbering. “When the rooster crowed the third time, he. . . he looked over at me, blood dripping down his face, his cloak bloodied and torn. I. . . I wanted to die. Andrew, I cu . . . cursed when I denied him, and then,” I rise to my knees, my head in my hands, “and then I saw him looking at me. I looked back tentatively, into his tender and tortured face . . .”
I shake my head and throw tears from my eyes. “If he. . .he’s the Messiah, how can they torture him like that? Did you see it?”
“No. I uh, no,” he hangs his head, “I’m so sorry, but I ran away, afraid.” He rubs my back, as he is above me. “Thomas told me what was happening. I came here because it’s the last place I saw Him.” He is crying now and I reach out to him. When I do, he pulls me into a hug like I am a child who has been saved from a runaway camel. “I don’t understand.” He squeezes me too tight. “I just don’t understand.” He is shaking his head, sobbing. “I just don’t understand . . .”
The Jewish Sabbath–-Saturday
They have crucified him. Horribly. Cruelly. Like he is a criminal. The Passover Lamb.
One week ago they laid palms in his path and shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Nothing changed in those few days. All he did was turn their heads to the truth, love them, and heal them. None of us understands, but Mary, his mother, reminded us that he told us he would be crucified. She is more attuned to what has happened than the rest of us. John is staying close to her, watching over her as though she is his mother.
The eleven of us and many others are together still, until what? I don’t know. Maybe they will arrest us too! Judas hung himself. Good! He is the worst of traitors. I would’ve thought Matthew would be the one to sell Jesus for silver. How could Judas do this? So much to comprehend.
The others have tried to console me, but I wish they would leave me alone. When Jesus told us we all would stumble because of him, I announced, “Even if all are made to stumble, I will not!” Such arrogance! That’s when he told me that before the rooster crowed twice, I would deny him three times. I cry out softly, and when I do, the others turn to me with pity. Again. I will never live this down, and I shouldn’t. It isn’t my only failure that night. I fell asleep when Jesus was praying in the garden. Not just me, but James and John also.
“Remember,” I say to James standing near me as I huddle in a corner on the floor, slow tears wetting my face, “how he asked us to stay awake and pray?” The entire roomful of people hushes and turns to me.
Mary walks over, stoops in front of me, and pulls my chin toward her. The others are all watching. “You mustn’t torture yourself, Peter. He would not want you to do this.”
“But he was so troubled and distressed when he was praying in the garden. He knew! He knew what was coming and he asked us to pray, and me specifically. ‘Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?’” I lower my head and tears fall from my eyes. “And I couldn’t.”
She replies tenderly. “That’s because he’s so fond of you. You must find some peace, Peter. Dry your tears.”
“How can I not cry? — for him, for me, for all of us. I’ve never seen him like that–so afraid. He prayed, ‘Abba Father. All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me, nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.’” I speak only to Mary, but the others listen. “How could I not have known what was coming? How could none of us have known?” I point around the room.
“Jesus is not just my son, Peter. He is also God’s Son.” Mary places her hand on my cheek. “I don’t understand it all just yet, but I trust God. And you must too.”
“You are so thoughtful and calm through all of this. But then you didn’t blunder that awful night Judas came with that mob and took him away.”
She looks at me lovingly, “Oh, but I have blundered enough raising him. Now come, eat something. You must keep yourself strong. It is late, the women and I must leave.”
The First Day of the Week–Sunday
At the first light of day on the calmest of mornings after a tumultuous week, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, James and John’s mother, along with two other women trudge toward the tomb where Jesus is buried. Colorful urns of fragrant spices and oils are under their arms, prepared to embalm the body of Jesus, laid to rest in a rich man’s tomb.
Their footsteps are light, but their souls are not. Grief carries them through the morning, as they pass near Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and beyond the city walls where the dead are laid. This is not something they imagined doing to the one who raised others from the dead.
The Romans, at the request of the ruling Jewish Sanhedrin, had posted guards and placed a boulder over the entrance to Jesus’ tomb, supposedly to keep the disciples from stealing the body and making claims that their Messiah had risen. The women are aware of this as they chatter along, hoping the guards will roll the stone away so they can anoint his body. However, as they near the tomb, the earth shakes, and the stone has been rolled from the entrance. Looks of bewilderment and fright pass between them. They nervously ask one another “What has happened? Should we go back? Should we go in?”
They are breathless as they enter the open tomb. It is small and dark, and their eyes narrow as they enter. The rocky walls and dusty earthen floor are gloomy, but it is not as bad as they expected. They strain to see as they look about and realize it is empty, except for Jesus’ bedclothes on the floor. Before they can gasp or speak, two shining men dressed in white appear in their midst, lighting the tomb, and startling them, almost to death.
Frightened at what they feel must surely be a heavenly vision or angels, they fall and bow their faces to the ground. The men ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ “The women nod in their prostrate positions. “Now go and tell his disciples and Peter, He will meet them in Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
The men or angels, whatever they were, disappeared, and the women rose slowly, nodding to each other, trembling, wonderstruck. “He did say he would rise again,” said Mary Magdalene. “How could we all forget such a thing?” The awe in her words causes her face to radiate. They flee the tomb, bewildered, happier than when they entered, but tentative about how they will deliver this news.
We heard them before they ever knocked on the door. I’m not sure who let them in, but they were conversing wildly amongst themselves and to us, almost breathless, animated in a way none of us understood. What had happened that caused such a change in their demeanor?
Mary Magdalene speaks to me from across the room. “Peter, please heed what we have to say,” she implores me. I hear nothing discernible at this point. I get up from the floor and walk across the room. “Speak one person at a time.” I grumble at them. John is practically at attention waiting to hear their news.
After they report of the empty tomb, the appearance of angels, and most importantly, that he has arisen, we are dumbfounded. They wouldn’t lie, not knowingly, but we wondered why this news was given to women, rather than to the disciples. It could’ve been some sort of group hysteria. Perhaps a prank by the Sanhedrin. And while most of us agreed, after a time, that he did say he would arise after three days, no one has seen him. Most of us agreed, it wasn’t believable.
“And, Peter,” Mary Magdalene’s eyes bore through me. “The angel mentioned your name.”
“With regard to what?” I hold my heart wondering . . .
He told us to go tell this to the disciples, and Peter . . .”
An angel mentioned me specifically?”
I look about the room. No one else seems interested in this revelation. John is headed for the door. “I must go see for myself.” I head out the door, somewhat behind John, not concerned about what the others think, and run as fast as my muscles allow. They’re tight from wallowing. John is just ahead of me. We run side by side for a while, but he runs on.
When I get to the tomb, I stop short of entering, suddenly aware of what this place represents. John is standing outside, also tentative. But, just like the women said, the stone is rolled away. I stroke it as I walk in, slowly, straining as I look about the dark stone walls. When I stoop down, I see the linen clothes laid out, the handkerchief folded.
John walks in. “He’s gone, just as they said. Perhaps he has arisen, Peter!” He reaches down and touches Jesus’ garments, his voice rich with awe. “Let us go tell the others.”
I nod. “I’ll be along shortly.” But I stay for quite a while, alone in the tomb, hopeful. But then fearing someone will see me and think I’ve stolen the body, I leave.
I walk back jauntily, not running, just trying to work out in my mind what has happened, and then I realize someone is beside me. Startled, I look over, and a fellow is keeping my pace. He asks, “What is troubling you, friend?”
“What makes you think I’m troubled, sir?” I am not indignant, just somewhat bewildered.
“Your demeanor, I suppose. You seem like someone who has discovered good news but doesn’t quite know what to make of it.”
I slow my pace and look over at him. “You are quite astute,” I nod, but say nothing more.
“Peter,” he says, “feed my sheep.”
“Lord!” I fall to the ground.
He motions me up and I suddenly recognize his tender face. I reach to hug him, but he backs away.
“I have not yet ascended to my Father,” he says. “I have something to tell you.”
My mouth is agape, and I nod. “Of course, Lord.”
He looks at me so tenderly. “Your propensity to sin is no greater than anyone else, Peter. Satan asked for you, to sift you. I prayed for you and held him back, but he nevertheless caused you great despair. However, you must let it go. There is much to do; you must concentrate on spreading the Kingdom of God on Earth. Now gather the others and be uplifted; we will meet soon.” And he vanishes from my eyes.
I twist and turn looking for him, and then I begin to jump and scream! He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive!
The Good News
My feet cannot keep up with the lightness of my heart, possibly floating above me and running ahead to tell the others that Jesus lives. But finally, I arrive and bound into the house, out of breath, smiling, aware that they are looking at me with astonishment and surprise. “He’s alive!” I walk between and among mostly men, but a few women also. Those lying on the floor rise. “He’s alive! He’s been resurrected!” I am laughing and I slap Matthew’s back and Thomas’ and John’s. Looks of wonder and disbelief greet me.
Simon the Zealot walks toward me. “Yes, John told us already, Peter. The tomb was empty,”
“Yes, that’s true,” I say, “but, I saw him! He’s alive!”
“How can that be?” says Andrew.
“We saw him raise the dead!” I reply laughing. “Andrew, surely you believe?”
John asks, “What did he say to you?”
“He told me Satan had tempted me. But He had prayed for me, or Satan would have caused me even greater harm.”
“He caused you quite a lot of harm,” John nods at the others.
“Yes, he did. But he did not harm my body. And having seen and spoken to Jesus, I am of sound mind.” I hit my chest with my hand.
“He’s alive!” James declares it, laughing through tears.
“And he tells me we must prepare the earth for the Kingdom of God.” My words excite even me.
“Really?” Matthew is smiling and claps his hands.
We talk until dinner, and while there is still some disbelief among the disciples, most believe.
At dinner we linger around the table, speaking of the day’s events when suddenly Jesus appears in our midst. “Peace to you,” he says. The gasps and mild screams all around conflict with His pleasant greeting. Many are terrified and frightened, supposed that they have seen a spirit. And he says, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is Me; a spirit does not have flesh and bones.” When He says this, he shows us the holes in his hands and his feet.
And while we are still in disbelief from joy and wonder, he very casually asks, “Do you have anything to eat?”
A piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb are brought to him and he eats in our presence. He says, “I spoke this to you while I was with you—everything written concerning Me in the Torah of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opens our minds to understand the prophetic Scriptures and continues, “It is written and so it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the removal of sin is to be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” We are spellbound. “I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, but you are to stay in the city until you receive the Holy Spirit from on high.”
And then he vanishes, his chair as empty as his plate. It is an astounding thing to have the Lord disappear in front of you.
For Forty more days, Jesus appeared to us, and his appearing’s were always spectacular: in a garden, by the sea, on a mountain, in locked rooms. Once He appeared to over five hundred people. He walked with us, ate with us, fed us, and was always teaching us. None of us doubted that He was the risen Lord. He had cast away death and the grave, His atonement for us complete. And because of Him we would inherit an amazing gift—everlasting life in heaven, with Him and the Father.
At the end of his time with us, He instructed us to meet him in Galilee at a mountain He designated, where we worshipped Him. He told us: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Then He blessed us.
After he had spoken these things, while we watched, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of our sight. And while we looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, two men appeared by us in white apparel.
“Men of Galilee,” they say, “why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.”
We are dazzled and our hearts are full. After worshipping, we return to Jerusalem with great joy, teaching and preaching the Good News, carrying out Jesus’ proclamations throughout the world. The Lord is with us, loving us, nurturing us, giving us power and strength through the Holy Spirit. I pass this on that you might proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all people, so their joy may be complete, until we meet in heaven. Amen.
“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.” Acts 5:14-15
Peter held the position of leader among the disciples of Christ until his death by crucifixion, upside down, as he requested, at the hands of the Romans under Nero. (He thought himself unworthy to be crucified as Christ was) Through much of his life, he warned men about the snares of Satan. “Be sober, be vigilant,” warned the apostle, “because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
Today, we still experience the sufferings caused by Satan, our true adversary, not the human’s he influences. This Easter, and always, lets give each other the benefit of the doubt with forgiveness in our hearts. From Calvary’s cross, Jesus forgave us far more than we can ever repay. We are beholden to a Savior who loves us so much He left a holy, benevolent, beautiful, and pure environment, where he reigned, to come to earth, with one purpose: to die horribly for us all. Now sinners like you and me, having known and believed in a risen Savior, will spend eternity with Him!
It’s an amazing thing. Hallelujah!
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciple, If you have love for one another.” John 13:34.
“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall have everlasting life. John 3:16
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 43:48
About this story: I wrote this using the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, plus 1 Corinthians, and the Acts, primarily and interchangeably. The first person account is my effort to help us visualize and understand what the reactions of the volatile Peter and others might have been after Peter denied Jesus, and was absent the crucifixion. However, the texts revolving around Jesus are Scriptural, just largely condensed. The exception to factual events involving Jesus is Peter’s meeting with Jesus on the road back from the tomb. Peter and John did go to the tomb, and Jesus appeared to Peter before he appeared to the other disciples, though we aren’t told when or how that happened, just that it did. Also, something changed Peter’s demeanor. Peter’s jaunt from the tomb could be when Peter saw the risen Jesus, and so I wrote this possible narrative. There is also an account of Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus, which I didn’t include. This story omits many wonders of the aftermath of the crucifixion…kcs
“And there are also many other things that Jesus did which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” John 21:25