Were you there—when He rose up from the grave?

3. Peter

2. The women | Index | 4. The two travellers

1 Corinthians 15:3–8

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Also refer to—Matthew 28:5–7, 9–10; Mark 16:1–2; Luke 24:9–12, 34;

John 10:1–9, 19–31, 21:1–24

Call him ‘Peter,’ ‘Simon Peter,’ ‘Simon,’ or ‘Cephas’

Peter is the most colourful of all the Lord’s disciples. He is mostly called ‘Peter’ (‘a stone’), but often called ‘Simon’ (‘hearing’) or ‘Simon Peter.’ A few times ‘Cephas’ (‘a rock’) is used, unless ‘Cephas’ is translated ‘Peter.’ We simply call him ‘Peter.’

Different from the others?

All about Peter seems a little ‘different.’ He is the one to identify Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus says that this had been divinely revealed to him. Then soon after that, Peter tells Jesus that it is not true that Jesus will suffer, die and be raised from the dead. This was despite the fact that Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer in those ways and rise again! Jesus warns Peter that Satan is deceiving him by that error. We need, as a point of principle, trust in obedience, to always accept what God says to us. That will always be in concert with the Bible as the true and only word of God. Never doubt the Bible!

Peter is the first disciple to promise rashly to Jesus that he will follow Him, even if no one else does. (All the disciples then say the same thing.) He alone resists violently at Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and cuts off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, with a sword. (At this worst time in Jesus’ earthly life, He promptly and graciously heals it.) Soon before Jesus is crucified, with pressure mounting on Peter, he denies that he knows or follows Jesus three times. He then goes out and weeps ‘bitterly’ as a result of his denials. Peter’s sad experience reminds us how easy it is to make generous and extensive promises to God in a time of conscious blessing, or in the heat of the moment, or because of well-meant pressure from others, and then regret later what you promised. Instant obedience is necessary, but some things need to be prayed over and thought out rather than to promise rashly as Peter did. We need to keep close to Jesus in our personal devotions each day. Then we will act less rashly and with greater spiritual understanding.

Peter after the death and resurrection of Jesus

But we now will look at Peter after our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, died and rose again. Sadly, all the disciples feel defeated, guilty and try to hide from public view. They cower in fear, knowing that their Lord has been cruelly and wickedly treated and crucified. Strangely, not one of them remembers that Jesus often said that this would happen. Peter is normally the most headstrong and impetuous of them by far. But now he is simply just one of the disillusioned, miserable, crumbling failures that the disciples have become. There seems to be no hope, no good news, no way out—and the opposition is so very strong.

Who goes counter-flow when told that Jesus is alive?

1 Corinthians 15:5 tells us that the once crucified, now risen Lord Jesus Christ, appears to Peter, and then to the twelve. Significantly, Peter is the first person who Paul records as having met the risen Lord. But this is after Mary Magdalene and the women with her have seen the once occupied and guarded tomb of Jesus. It is now empty and open for all to see or inspect. They see angels, but more important still, they later meet the risen Jesus Himself. Mary Magdalene talks with Him. First, the angel, and then the Lord Jesus, tell the women to go to inform the disciples that Jesus is risen and will meet them in Galilee. The women go, as instructed, and tell the disciples. The disciples’ first reaction is sheer unbelief. But one of them goes counter-flow to the rest. Can you guess who that is?

Who else but Peter?

Who else but Peter? He is not convinced yet that Jesus is alive but goes to inspect the site for himself. He is accompanied by John, who outruns him to get there first, but then hangs back. Peter enters the tomb and sees it all for himself, including Jesus’ graveclothes through which His resurrected body has passed. Peter returns home, wondering about what he saw. En route, Jesus appears personally to a bewildered Peter, perhaps in the same way that He earlier appeared to Mary Magdalene.

Confirmation from others

Luke 24:34 confirms 1 Corinthians 15:5 that Peter meets Jesus before the other disciples do. The two travellers on the road to Emmaus go straight to ‘the eleven’ [the disciples] to tell them that they met the resurrected Christ. They meet ‘the eleven and those with them assembled together.’ ‘Those with them’ are Mary Magdalene’s friends who are also there to tell those sceptical disciples the same thing! On hearing that the two Emmaus travellers have met their risen Lord, those women respond, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ But the other disciples have not yet met the living Jesus themselves. God is preparing them for that. He always prepares people’s minds before they trust in Jesus. (Maybe He is preparing your mind now?) In the interest of accuracy, it should be said that Peter is not named individually in the accounts of those disciples who do later meet the resurrected Jesus in Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:7 and John 20:19–31, but he is clearly one of the disciples and is with them, as Matthew 28:8 strongly implies, and as the angel at the tomb knows and states specifically in Mark 16:7.  John 20:19–31 says ‘the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.’ They were there as a body. Verse 24 calls the assembly of them ‘the twelve’ (although Judas was dead). It specifically says that Thomas was noted as not being there ‘with the disciples’ for the first time Jesus appeared, but that ‘Thomas was with them’ a week later when Jesus appeared ‘in the house again.’ Surely high-profile Peter is counted in the ‘disciples’ and ‘the twelve,’ especially when absentees, like Thomas at the first appearance, would be mentioned.

Peter sees Jesus again, when with the disciples

So, when Jesus appears to the disciples soon after, we can safely assume that Peter is there. He sees Thomas come to faith in Christ. The previous arch-doubter’s words, ‘My Lord and my God,’ show he now believes that Christ was nailed to the cross to bear his sins and their penalty. He now trusts in his heart in the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered death and lives forever. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus now lives in Thomas’ heart—and in the heart of everyone today who turns from sin and receives Christ by faith. Do you believe in Jesus like that? Are you saved by faith in Christ alone? (John 20:19–28).

Three times three is restoration!

Peter earlier denied Jesus three times before Jesus was crucified. Now, the risen Lord appears on the beach to Peter and the six other disciples who go fishing with him. While they are fishing, Jesus appears on the beach and cooks them breakfast. They do not then know that He comes to restore Peter. When Peter sees Jesus on the shore, he jumps overboard to get to Him. He is serious now about knowing and following Jesus, despite feeling so wretched at having let Him down. Again, three times Jesus asks Peter directly if he loves Him as His Lord and Saviour. (Jesus’ word for love means ‘love with full commitment.’) Three times Peter effectively answers ‘Yes.’ But he uses a lesser word for love than the word Jesus uses. The failed disciple is still aware of his sins and does not want to rush in rashly again as he did before. Jesus graciously accepts that and tells Peter three times (another three!) to feed and take care of His sheep. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, who gave His life for His sheep, refers to guilty and lost people who have trusted Him and joined His flock, the worldwide church, as ‘sheep.’ You can be included! If you know Him as your Shepherd-Saviour, you can be absolutely sure of having eternal life now and being in Heaven with Him forever (see John 10:27–30).

Jesus shows that Peter’s repentance and commitment to Christ is accepted, and the restored disciple and Apostle comes back as an under-shepherd of the flock of his Chief and Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. When God saves you, He cleanses you from sin, changes you and uses you. Those who have failed and have been restored by God’s amazing grace are in a good position to help other strugglers and failures! Peter will do that.

Jesus discusses other things with Peter, including that Peter will one day face death for being His devoted disciple. Peter the sad failure, is now Peter the restored servant! God will use him mightily in the days ahead, including soon preaching the gospel with God’s power on the Day of Pentecost, when about 3,000 people trust Jesus and are saved.

Again, may I ask you; do you trust in Jesus? Are you saved? He is only ever a simple sincere prayer away from you.