Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me?
The propelling force behind Peter’s denial wasn’t his lack of faith. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made the claims he did. It was his overestimation of his faith. He believed he was ready to die for Jesus. But he wasn’t, and Jesus knew it.
So Jesus said the unthinkable: you can’t follow me.
But it wasn’t. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing because He knew the exact measure of Peter’s faith.
Peter had initially followed Jesus.
Peter had followed Him on the water.
But he wasn’t ready to follow Jesus to the cross.
Peter wasn’t ready to follow Jesus everywhere. Not at that moment.
You’re not ready to follow Jesus everywhere either. Not at this moment.
Peter walked back to the house, confused. He felt so ashamed. His face burned as he thought back to his denial. His hot words were spoken without proper thought. That is the trouble with words, they are so easy to say and so difficult to unsay. Tears ran down his face. He remembered his boastful comment, "Though others forsake you, I will never forsake you." The strident crow of the rooster echoed and re-echoed in his troubled brain. Satan, the accuser sneered. "Disciple? Disgrace more likely. You are useless. Worthless! Hopeless! Forget it. No one will trust you again. Jesus will never look at you again. You have failed big time and it's all over."
Suddenly he met Jesus. Face to face. Not a ghost. Not an apparition.
Jesus said, "Peace! It's me. Don't be afraid." Peter could hardly believe his eyes. Jesus was alive with a real physical body. Not a different body but the body that had died was now alive again. The original body complete with visible wounds in his hands, his feet and his side was truly alive and walking talking and eating again.
The King was no longer dead. The King had fought his biggest battle and won. What looked like a triumph of hatred and evil and the defeat of godliness and righteousness was instead the defeat of sin and death. Obedience defeated rebellion, self-sacrifice defeated greed and selfishness, love defeated hatred, humility defeated pride, meekness defeated arrogance, and truth defeated lies.
On Good Friday Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. He paid the price, for Peter's forgiveness and my forgiveness. He offers new life and eternal life to all who will put their trust in him.
Because of Easter, Christians have this audacious hope that eternal life is God's great gift to all who will believe in Jesus. We believe that death is not the end of the story. We believe that diabetes, heart disease or cancer is not the final word. We believe that just as Jesus was raised from the dead so he will also raise from the dead everyone who believes in him. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
The resurrection is not just a Bible story from long ago. Jesus is alive and he answers prayer. Where we came from - and the problems, mistakes and failures of our past - are not as important as where we are headed and who we are walking with. Jesus changes lives and brings healing and new life to those who will ask him.
The message we proclaim—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son sent to rescue us from our sin—is the same message that Peter preached when he stood in the midst of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago: “This Jesus … you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23–24, ESV).
The same Spirit that filled the Apostle Peter and turned the world upside down is with us and at work today. It’s the Spirit that our nation so desperately needs to turn from our sinful ways and receive the gift of everlasting life.