Easter Sunday 2019: ...And Peter

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus.

2 And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen.

3 And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

4 And looking, they saw the stone rolled back. For it was very great.

5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed with a white robe: and they were astonished.

6 Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here, behold the place where they laid him.

7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee; there you shall see him, as he told you. (Mark 16:7-1)

If you’ve never failed God, this message is not for you. But if you’ve ever promised God something, but not done it; if you’ve ever resolved to overcome some besetting sin, only to blow it repeatedly; if you’re plagued with guilt over sins that have defeated you; then, today I offer you genuine hope from God.

Mark’s record of the resurrection inserts two short words that offer hope to all who have failed God:...“and Peter” (Mark 16:7). The angel at the empty tomb tells the women, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, …” Why did the angel add, “and Peter”? I am sure that the risen Lord told him specifically to include those words. Peter, who had miserably denied the Lord! Peter, who had boasted of his allegiance to Christ, but who had arguably failed worse than any of the other disciples had failed!

And Peter”—How those words rang in Peter’s ears! You can be sure that the angel said those words. Peter couldn’t have forgotten the scene. The women had reported to the disciples the news of the resurrection. There was Peter, slumped in the corner, in the gloom of depression. But at the words, “and Peter,” he perked up. “What did you say? Are you sure that the angel said, ‘and Peter’? Tell me again! Were those his exact words?”

Scholars tell us that Mark’s Gospel was written largely under Peter’s influence. Picture Mark, quill in hand, writing, “Go, tell His disciples.” There’s Peter looking over his shoulder, saying, “‘And Peter!’ Don’t forget to write, ‘and Peter!’”

Those two short words say to us this Easter morning: The risen Savior offers hope to all who have failed God.

From Peter’s life, I offer two insights on how the risen Savior can turn our failures into hope.

1. Failure cannot be hidden from the risen Savior’s gaze.

Since Adam’s first sin, the automatic human reflex to failure has been to try to hide from God. It’s irrational; it’s impossible; but we still try to do it. But, please observe:

A.  Jesus noticed Peter’s failure before it happened.

You will recall that Jesus had predicted Peter’s denial prior to the event in Mark 14:29-31:

And Jesus saith to Peter: Amen I say to thee, to day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shall deny me thrice.

But he spoke the more vehemently: Although I should die together with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner also said they all.

Peter had insistently denied that he would do such a thing. But that which surprised Peter was no surprise to the Lord. He knew Peter better than Peter knew Peter.

B.  Jesus noticed Peter’s failure when it happened.

Luke’s Gospel records the awful scene when Jesus was enduring the mock trial and Peter, in the courtyard outside, was denying Him. While Peter was still speaking, a cock crowed. Then Luke adds the chilling words, And the Lord turning looked on Peter (Luke 22:61). What a look that must have been! It communicated more than words ever could do! Both love and reproof were bound up in that look. Peter went out and wept bitterly.

C.  Jesus noticed Peter’s failure after it happened.

I believe that this is indicated in our Gospel readings for today when we read the words, “and Peter.” The Lord didn’t pretend that Peter’s failure had never happened. He didn’t shrug it off or ignore it. He acknowledged Peter’s failure after the fact by those words, “and Peter.”

We cannot hide our failures from the risen Savior’s gaze. He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. He knows every rotten thought we have before we think it. He knows every terrible thing we say before we say it. He knows how we will fail Him next week and next year. He knows our failures as we are committing them. He doesn’t overlook them and He doesn’t want us to overlook them. He wants us to confess our sins, not cover them.

Has the Lord ever reminded you right in the middle of some sin that He is watching?

Even if we think that we get away with our sin at the moment, the Lord will not let us forget it later. He has ways of bringing it to our attention until we deal with it. So the words “and Peter” tell us that failure cannot be hidden from the risen Savior’s gaze. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that we can hide it. We need to confess it to the Lord. That is always the first step to recovery when we’ve failed.

The words “and Peter” also show us:

2. Failure cannot separate us from the risen Savior’s love.

I can say that because . . .

A.  Peter’s failure was as bad as any failure can be.

I don’t mean to dump on poor Peter. It could just as easily have been you or me. We all would blow it just as badly if we were in the same situation. So I’m not criticizing Peter as if he was worse than we are. But it would be hard to conceive of a way of blowing it worse than Peter did. He had spent three years almost constantly in the presence of Jesus. He had heard Jesus teach. He had seen Him perform miracles. He was in the inner circle of the twelve. He had been in the room when Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead. He had seen Jesus in His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. And if Jesus ever needed the support of human friends, it was during the dark night of Gethsemane and the events that followed.

To make matters worse, Peter knew that the last words Jesus had heard him speak were words of denial during Christ’s moment of need. It is an awful thing to live with the memory that your last words to a loved one were not what you wanted them to be. Peter spent a dark Saturday with the memory that the final words Jesus heard him speak were words of awful denial.

By including Peter’s example in Scripture, the Lord shows that there is hope for us even at our worst moments of failure! Some of you may have done some awful things in your life. You are ashamed to tell anyone. You feel as if you can never face the Priest again if you were to confess it. But your failure is no worse than Peter’s. Those two words, “and Peter,” show us that there is no failure that can separate us from the risen Savior’s love.

Even though Peter’s failure was as bad as any ...

B.  Christ’s love was greater than Peter’s failure.

God’s love is always greater than our failures. Note two things about our Lord’s love for Peter that apply to us:

  • Christ’s love knows every sinner by name.

We can all quote John 3:16, For God so loved the world …. But God wants you to know and feel that He loves you individually, in spite of your sin. But God commendeth his charity, his love, towards us; because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

God is not like Charlie Browns friend, Linus, who shouts, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!” God loves people—individuals, sinners. He said, “and Peter.” On another occasion, He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And He speaks to each one here today with the same individual love. If you have failed Him, then He is calling your name, calling you to Himself.

Conclusion: 1929 Rose Bowl: Georgia Tech VS University of California 

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that now infamous game, Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow he became confused and ran 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates went after him and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Georgia Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which was the ultimate margin of victory.

That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: What will Coach Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?

The men filed off the field and went into the locker room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor. But Riegels put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.

Usually a coach has a lot to say to his team during half time. But that day, Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Everyone got up and started out, except Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him again. Still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Riegels, his face wet with tears, looked up and said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said to him, “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Riegels went back, and those Tech men would later say that they had never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.

Perhaps you have never failed in as colossal a way as Roy Riegels did. Normally our failures are not performed in a stadium before thousands of watching eyes. But each one of us at some time has badly failed God. The apostle Paul certainly had. He wrote, A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. (1 Timothy 1:15).

Peter might argue with Paul about who was the biggest sinner. But neither would argue about how wonderful God’s amazing grace is toward all who have failed. The angel’s words, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter,” say to us, “The game is only half over.”

I John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. The question is, will you confess your sins? Will accept the risen Savior’s pardon and by His grace go out and play the second half?

Easter Sunday 2019: ...And Peter