By Jaime Sherman
After another fitful night of sleep, Peter awoke on the first day of the week to a great clamor at the door. The fear and grief of the previous two days came flooding back, and as he and young John headed for the door, he wondered, Have they come for us, too?
But then he heard Mary Magdalene’s voice and heard her cry out, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Peter eyed John, and they sprinted from the house with Mary following close behind. John outran Peter and then hesitated at the entrance of the tomb. The stone was indeed rolled away, and boldly stepping inside the tomb, Peter found nothing but grave clothes. Could it be that the body of his Lord had been stolen away, or was a miraculous resurrection really possible?
The men walked back to the house, marveling at the empty tomb and what it meant. Though the Romans worried about grave robbers, Peter noted how the face cloth was folded away from the linen strips that had been wound around Jesus’ body. Hope swelled within him. Had Jesus conquered death and returned to life?
Mary had insisted on staying behind at the tomb with her tears, and as the men would later learn, she received a visit from their Lord, confirming that He indeed was risen. In the meantime, Peter had a visit from the other women, who had been to the tomb at first light and stayed there as Mary had run to find him and John. They had a special message for him from an dazzling heavenly messenger:
“Peter, the angel told us, ‘Go quickly, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen from the dead, and behold He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
Singled out, Peter must have felt a mix of emotions from sheer joy to shame at the possibility of facing the One he loved and yet had denied. Peter flashed back to the scene around the charcoal fire in the courtyard and heard his own voice denying any association with Jesus, and yet, the angel had just named him. Could it be that Jesus was sending Peter a message? Peter, I still love you. You haven’t done anything so bad that I’m done with you. We’re okay.
How Peter’s heart must have broken, knowing he could never live up to this unconditional love. All he could do was accept it. No amount of work or money could ever earn the love of Christ, who before Peter was ever born chose to love him. Peter simply needed to accept His love.
And then, Jesus graciously appeared to Peter, a gift that centuries later remains veiled in mystery, for New Testament accounts only hint at this profound moment in Peter’s life. Before appearing to the disciples on the night of His resurrection, Jesus appeared alone to Peter, and from then on, the denials around the charcoal fire were never mentioned again, though hinted at in the trio of questions Jesus asked Peter on another day. But that’s for tomorrow.
Nearly 2,000 years ago on this Resurrection Day, Peter experienced a peace that could only be explained in Jesus, the One sent to rescue him from the grip of sin, his ugly denials, and the deserved punishment. As Jesus proclaimed, “Peace be with you,” Peter knew he stood secure in his identity as one created by God without mistake (Psalm 139:13-16, Isaiah 43:1). He knew he was intimately searched and known by God, and yet loved (Psalm 139:1-4, Isaiah 43:4). As one named and called by Jesus, Peter knew he was to be the rock on whom the early church would be built (Matthew 16:18, Isaiah 43:1). And no matter what would happen to Peter throughout that journey, he knew he was kept by the Lord, always in His presence (Psalm 139:9-12, Isaiah 43:5).
The risen Lord’s promises are no different for us today as we celebrate the empty tomb. No matter what we face in this panic-stricken world, we are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ with His mercy, peace and love multiplied in our lives (Jude 1-2). Like He did with Peter, God invites you today into special, private moments with Him, ones in which He affirms who you are in Him and how much He longs to be in fellowship with you. He whispers to you: I went to the cross for you. Nothing, absolutely nothing you do can change my love for you. And no matter what your journey with Me includes, peace be with you, Dear One, I love you.
Jaime Sherman crafted the narratives in this Easter weekend series from her study of the Gospel accounts of the week leading up to Jesus’ death, from research of the history and geography of Israel, and from personal observations surrounding the eyewitness accounts, which are provided for today’s story in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-49, John 20 and I Corinthians 15:5. Additional Scriptures are referenced within the text of the narrative.