“But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’ ” (Mark 16:7)
To be rejected by society is disappointing. By friends, disheartening. By God: disastrous. Worse, if the rejection is our fault. Heart-rending if there is no forgiveness.
The aftermath of Easter held a jumble of conflicting emotions. At first, grief gave way to confusion. Then, joy and relief grew as evidence of the resurrection grew. Yet, for many there was an uneasy undercurrent. Many of the Chosen 12 looked back on recent days with shame. Shame led to guilt.
Except for John, all had abandoned their Master in his hour of need. Their reputation was in shambles. One of their number had killed himself after selling Jesus out. The most outspoken of them, the one who had bragged the most about his faithfulness, had wilted before a servant girl, backing up his denial of knowing Jesus with curses.
That was Peter.
Peter knew that Jesus knew. Jesus had warned him in advance. The crowing of the rooster was the alarm. With one look, Jesus had convicted him on the spot. No wonder he broke into bitter tears. No wonder that in the joy and wonder of Easter he wondered if he was now rejected. Was he still loved by Jesus? Was he still a Disciple? Was he forgiven? An angel at the empty grave provided the answer. Jesus was alive and would meet his disciples in Galilee. Then came the words of special comfort and assurance for the grieving sinner.
The wonder of the holy Lord God lies in his power, his knowledge, and his love. Of the billions of people on this planet at any given time, he knows each one—numbers the hairs on their heads and reads the thoughts of their most inner hearts. He knows our shame. He sees our guilt. But he does not abandon those who count him as their Savior.
The account of the life of the Apostle Peter is important for us. By looking closely at him, we learn something important about ourselves. By looking at him, we learn something important about our Lord.
We learn of our weakness and guilt. We learn of his mercy and love.
Judas despaired. He concluded there could be no forgiveness for him. Peter repented. He came to the grave of his crucified Lord. In spite of the danger, he stayed among those known to be followers of the prophet from Galilee. Faith overcame fear. Later on, Jesus would take formal steps to recognize Peter’s position as special among his followers. He would grant Peter the privilege of serving in his kingdom: “Feed my sheep!”
It was Satan who had caused the doubt in Peter’s heart. It was a guilty conscience that had declared, “You cannot be forgiven.” It was the word of Jesus that threw that judgment out.
Usually, we are more like Peter in his weakness than in his strength. Sometimes, nagging guilt can also make us wonder if we have forfeited our place in the kingdom of God. At times, we worry that Jesus might have forgotten us. Worse yet, rejected us.
As with Peter, Jesus knew in advance that days of doubt would come to us, too. That is why, just before he was arrested, he instituted Holy Communion. Our doubts are answered with the offering of his body and blood, “Given for you. Shed for you.” “For you.”
He died to cover all sins, even the worst ones. Forgiveness is offered to everyone.
We pray: Risen and glorified Lord Jesus, let the dawn of Easter morning shine yet into our hearts to remove all doubt and fear. You have not forgotten us. You have not forsaken us. Your death signed our life certificate. Your resurrection sealed our place alongside you in glory. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain, and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military