The Disciples… and Peter

Denial of Peter

Mark 16:5-7 –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. 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. 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.

This morning, in celebration of the Resurrection, we had a Sunrise Service at church. As one of our music ministers was giving us a mini-devotional just prior to the actual service, he made mention of this verse. In it, the angel at the empty tomb told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is risen.

Note the separation: the disciples… and Peter.

Simon the fisherman — nicknamed Kepha, Cephas, Petros, Peter — was not just any disciple. He was the very first to confidently declare a notion that some had toyed with: that Jesus was no mere prophet but was in fact the long awaited Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Because of this confession, Jesus named him as the primary example of this confession, “the rock” upon which He would build His church. Some consider Peter to be the foundation of the church. Personally, I consider his confession to be that foundation. Either way, Peter was pretty important.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter was not just a disciple — he was the model disciple. He was always the first to jump out of the boat — literally as well as figuratively. He had a knack for boldly rushing in where angels fear to tread because he knew that whatever happened, the Father had Jesus’ back, and Jesus had Peter’s. Jesus was The Guy, so Jesus would always come out victoriously.

When Jesus said that He was going to die in Jerusalem, it was perfectly in keeping with Peter’s nature to deny that eventuality. I’m sure it felt like a slap in the face for Jesus to call him Satan for that denial, but even Peter didn’t realize the full extent of who Jesus was and what He was about, and he was well acquainted with his impulsive nature getting him into hot water. Sure, he was the only man other than Jesus Himself to ever walk on water, but he also sank.

Peter was a man so completely devoted to Christ that even among the Jesus’ core disciples, Peter stood out. He was so committed to Christ that, when Jesus said that all of His disciples would desert him, Peter declared that he would die before that happened. Of course, Jesus prophesied that not only would Peter desert Him just like everybody else, but he would deny Him openly before the night was over. And that’s exactly what happened.

Peter stood apart from the other disciples in his devotion to Christ, but he also stood apart from the other disciples in his denial of Him. Not only did the disciples all think they’d lost their Master when Jesus was crucified, but Peter had also lost himself.

Again, he was the model disciple. As he had once been the epitome of what they could be, he was now the epitome of what they were.

It’s not hard to imagine that Peter no longer saw himself as a disciple, but that he now saw him as less than them, having fallen much farther than they. He, who was supposed to comfort the others, was himself the most in need of comfort.

It seems fitting, then, that the angel would single Peter out as one who should be told that Jesus had risen, for the Master was not just being restored to His disciples, but to the one who thought that he had done the most to fail Him.

I find this individual attention most striking, though not because Jesus wasn’t known for individual attention — He did, after all, tell Peter to mind his own business when he asked what another disciple’s job should be after Jesus ascended. What’s so striking is that, as if to confirm Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter’s “greater” denial, He went out of His way to ask “Do you love Me” and command “Feed My sheep” three times — once for each time that Peter denied Him.

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