I will admit that I have had a long fascination with the Apostle Peter. When I was entering the novitiate at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham Massachusetts, I was asked by the Abbot to select three names one of which I would be given on the night I entered. Now I could have chosen my name, Michael, and much to the chagrin of my mother, I chose Peter as one of the three names. The others were Philip and Stephen.
When I submitted the names to the Abbot, I had to include a justification for why I wanted one of these names. He would remind us that he could names us anything like “tabernacle door half open” or “tabernacle door half closed” but would usually choose from the three names we submitted. In my justification for Peter it is was quite simple, his feast day was the same as my birthday, so it would be easy to remember, and like me Peter always seemed to catch on a little late and was always putting his foot in his mouth, that was until Pentecost!
On the morning of the Resurrection of Jesus, Scripture tells that all of the Apostles, except Thomas, were in the upper room. It is believed that this is the same room where the last meal took place with Jesus and his Apostles. The women had gone to the place where they laid Jesus to finish the burial ritual that had to be rushed the earlier.
The women were numb and still trying to figure it all out. Jesus, their friend, and the teacher was dead. He had been arrested and tried and crucified right before their eyes and their grief was still hard to deal with. Perhaps they were silent as they made the journey to his burial place. They had brought everything that they would need, except someone to roll the stone away, for his burial. Their hopes were dashed! Jesus was dead, never to return, or so they thought.
They arrive at the tomb to find it open, the stone had been rolled away, and they feared the worst, someone had taken his body. A young man, dressed in white, was sitting there, confusion and pain struck them. Who could have done such a thing? Why would someone take his body away and where did they put it? But this is the essence of the Gospel, Jesus rises, he is not here, you are looking for him in the wrong place. The man, we later learn it was an angel, tells them to go and tell his disciples and Peter.
Tell his disciples and Peter… The Angel wanted to make sure that the women told Peter, the man who had denied Christ not once but three times prior to his crucifixion. Peter had fallen into the depths of sin and despondency, and he needed the assurance that what Jesus had told him had come to pass that his sins were forgiven and that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead!
Peter was bold in his assertions of his love for Jesus. Jesus attempted to warn him that he was going to be tempted by Satan, but Peter did not heed his words in fact Peter tells Jesus that it may happen to others, but it will never happen to him. Was this arrogance? Perhaps pride, pride the sin that brought down our first parents and the sin that is the root of all of the others. Peter is the one that Jesus singles out and tells him that it is his faith, the faith of Peter, upon which he will build his Church. Peter is one of the first to recognize Jesus as the Savior and in the hour of Jesus’ humiliation, when he needed his friends the most, Peter denied him.
Tell his disciples and Peter… Peter must have been feeling pretty low at this point. Sitting in that upper room, perhaps in the corner all alone, thinking about what had happened and trying to make sense of it all. He had tried to defend Jesus with his sword in the garden at his arrest and then a few hour later denied that he knew him. Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and now the women come with this tale that he is no longer in the tomb. They take off to the site, and Peter runs ahead of them and reaches the tomb first. He peers inside to find the burial clothes lying there folded neatly. How could this be? The Jewish burial cloth is rather long and why would someone take the time and effort to unravel it just to steal the body?
Tell his disciples and Peter… His words come back to haunt him, “I do not know him.” Standing there, gazing into an empty tomb, perhaps feeling empty himself, Peter is trying to figure it all out. For Peter, the story becomes very personal. Peter realizes, perhaps for the first time that he, like us, is a sinner, but the story does not end there. Because he is no longer in the tomb, because death was not the final part of the story, Peter, and all of us, have been forgiven and given a way back.
Tell his disciples and Peter… Jesus wanted his disciples, and especially Peter, that he had risen and that he had overcome death by his death.
This is a story of love, the love that God has for all of his creation. Yes Peter denied Christ at a time when he needed him most, but we know that he is forgiven and when the Holy Spirit comes it Peter who testifies to the masses about the power to transform lives and forgive sins, this is the message of the Resurrection for all of us.
Tell his disciples and Peter and all of the world that there is no more sin, no more sorrow, and no more death. There is only life! He is risen, and he is the resurrection and the life. All of us who believe in Jesus, though we are dead to sin, shall live through Christ. And we know that if we believe in him we shall never die but have eternal life!
Christ is Risen!