Enterprise, Alabama (USA)
ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us
the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end.
THE HOLY GOSPEL
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Mark 16:1-13 (KJV)
NOTE: The New Bible Versions unscrupulously draw into question all the remaining verses of Mark 16 following verse 7. This leaves off the Resurrection and Ascension finding the women “afraid.” So I include at least the five verses above in addition to the Lectionary Text so as to deprive those who would corrupt the text any credibility in their blasphemous scheme.
Every Easter Day is a glorious joy to the Christian because his heart is brought to bear, with acute clarity, upon the great salvation purchased for us by the King of Glory. I have spoken so oft of the scene at the Garden Tomb that I would like to turn the Gospel inward to the heart of man and its benefits from that Open Tomb in examining a man who was very much like you and me – Simon Peter!
The evidence presented of Peter in the Gospels and Epistles is of a man with multi-faceted character – like you and me. There are seven traits of Peter that I will address: 1) Peter was a STRONG MAN, both physically and spiritually; 2) Peter was a PROUD and BOASTFUL MAN; 3) Peter was a man of high courage, but one who could become a whining coward; 4) Peter, like you and me, did not know his own heart, in the way that the Lord knew it, as evidenced in his triple DENIAL of the Lord; 5) Peter was a PENITENT man for whom Christ bore a continual remembrance (like you and me); 6) Peter’s heart was open to the examination of the Lord; and 7) Peter was a JEALOUS man.
I believe every man and woman has salient characteristics that define them – perhaps as few as can be counted on the ten fingers. But, for today, we will focus on Peter.
Peter was a STRONG Man
Peter was a STRONG man: Peter was a man of the sea – a fisherman – accustomed to yeoman’s work in the drawing and casting of nets and managing the tact of the ship in all conditions of the sea. He HAD to be strong. It is most often the case that very strong men become overly confident of themselves as a result of basking in the awe of men of lesser constitution. Men often defer to a stronger man in everyday discourse. But Peter was also STRONG spiritually. I bring this passage to the bar as evidence:
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matt 16:13-19 (KJV)
Unlike the other disciples, Peter did not mince words over whom he considered Jesus to be. The name PETER derives from the Greek word for STONE (Petros) meaning a stone or “piece of rock.” In that sense, Peter was not that ROCK upon which Christ would build His Church because Christ was that Rock – “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”
1 Cor 10:2-4 (KJV) But Peter would become a ‘chip off that Rock’. The stone chip will have the same consistency and character of the Rock from which it is carved.
Peter was PROUD and BOASTFUL
Peter did not know his own heart, but he thought he did. The Lord always knows our hearts better than we know ourselves. See Peter’s proud response to Jesus’ warning of His crucifixion:
“31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” Matt 26:31-35 (KJV) Less than three hours after Peter made that proud boast, he had denied his Lord three times.
Peter was a man of great COURAGE, and could also become a COWARD
On the night of His betrayal, the Lord took His disciples into the Garden at Gethsemane to await the coming of the traitor with a band of soldiers. Peter had a sword because the Lord had warned them to sell their cloaks and buy a sword if they did not have. See the biblical account:
“. . . . he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. 2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: 9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. 10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? 12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, John 18:1-12 (KJV)
Our Lord and the disciples were confronted with a band of well-armed men with weapons that were likely superior to the sword of Peter; yet Peter courageously risked life and limb in attempting to defend Christ with his sword. That took great courage. But within a very short span of time, Peter was a cringing coward at the Hall of the High Priest. See the Gospel account below to support this claim.
Peter DENIED the best friend he had ever known -His Lord
54 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. 57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. 59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. 60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:54-62 (KJV)
This account records Peter’s triple DENIAL of the Lord just minutes after drawing his sword against a multitude. The man of courage has become a wilted wimp! How could this be? Never ask a question for which you have no possible answer, right? Here is my theory concerning Peter’s lapse of courage. Like each of us, Peter had great courage when standing with the Lord, but, once separated, he became a wind-blown reed. Peter had even drawn courage from the Lord to walk upon the stormy sea, and he did! But once his eyes were off the Lord and on the sea, he sank into the briny foam. An absolutely humiliating end to this account is that the Lord turned and looked eye-to-eye at Peter on his third denial. How would that stinging shame settle on your soul, friend? Peter went out and wept bitterly – likely for the next three days, until Christ arose!
Peter drew COMFORT in his distress from the Lord
How was this accomplished. Remember that the courageous women (more courageous than the men) went to the Garden Tomb while it was yet dark (so much for Easter sunrise services) and discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance, and the body of our Lord missing. There was an angel (a young man) who sent a word of great comfort to Peter. Let’s read that account:
“5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples AND PETER that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”
Mark 16:5-7 (KJV)
Notice that the angel mentioned the names of none of the disciples EXCEPT Peter! The Lord wanted to make sure that Peter’s conscience was assuaged by that knowledge and he would be comforted from his shame and mourning.
Peter was FORGETFUL of his past failures
Once Peter’s fall had become history, and the Lord had arisen from the tomb, his mind repressed the memory of his great breach of faith and trust. We are all like that. We pray the Lord to save us on the swirling waters of the sea but, once saved, we are again expert seaman and masters of our souls. Peter and the other disciples went to Galilee as instructed by the angel. But they also went fishing. They did not yet know the magnitude of their calling to “Feed My SHEEP!” They were hailed by a Stranger on the Shore! But that Stranger was the closest Brother, Friend, and Lord they could possible have. Christ comes to us in unsuspecting ways and times, too. He was preparing a breakfast for them. Has a pastor of your church ever prepared breakfast for you? But the Lord told the men “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.” John 21:10 (KJV) He will prepare a place for us, but He does not desire us to come before Him empty handed, either.
“15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. John 21:15-19 (KJV)
There is much to be examined in the Greek text for finer points of meaning in the term ‘lovest’ as given here, but I do not desire to consume an overabundance of time in addressing that subject in the context of this sermon. Be it sufficient to observe that the Lord asked Peter, in the way to examine and provoke reflection of past failures, “Lovest thou me more than theses? Peter’s response was conspicuous in failing to address the full question ‘more than these.’ It is true that our Lord knew that Peter loved Him, but questions often provoke a spiritual awareness that might go unnoticed if not asked. Our Lord plied Peter with the profound question three times. It is profound because that is the key to our relationship to Christ. “We love Him because He first loved us.” See 1 John 4:19. But there was an additional and unavoidable dimension in this series of questions for Peter. On the third question, Peter was grieved to discover the Lord’s point. Peter had thrice denied the Lord, and thrice been asked of love. The Lord then informed Peter what his end would be – crucifixion. But Peter never again wavered in courage once the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.
Peter was a man of JEALOUS disposition
The Apostle John was the only disciple with the courage to stand with the women at the foot of the cross. That would have been considered dangerous in sympathizing with an enemy of the religious establishment – just as it would be today. Why did John have such courage? He was a youth full of the springs of life. He loved the Lord deeply and was beloved of the Lord. He needed not to be told by the Lord, as did Peter, to “Follow me!” John did so out of affectionate instinct. So, when the Lord told Peter, “Follow me,” John followed, too, out of a devotion that needed no coaxing.
“20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” John 21:20-23 (KJV)
Our friend, Peter, was well aware of the great love our Lord had for John; so, like you and me are sometimes disposed to be, Peter’s jealousy was aroused toward John. So, he asked, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” Even in our churches, and ESPECIALLY in our churches, there arises conflicts on the smallest of matters that can divide a church. These arise out of jealousy regardless the arguments expressed. If we, as a church, are truly One in Christ, there can be no division since Christ cannot be divided against Himself. We each have a calling in Christ – often more than one talent is given for investment. It is only those gifts that the Lord has use of that we should employ in our callings. Whatever gifts the other members have is between them and their Lord. If we are unable to exercise our calling in love, it is likely that we have misunderstood the calling. Jesus counsels Peter to mind His own calling and leave that of others to Himself: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
Go thou and do likewise, my friends. Happy Easter. Because Christ is risen from His borrowed Tomb, so may we rise from our own borrowed tombs!