The disciples were expecting Jesus to conquer the Romans and install Himself as King. To their minds, the Messiah would be the conquering King. The predictions by Jesus of His death were not heeded. When He did die, they were totally unprepared.
A condensed version of this article is available here.
As Pastor and author Don Stewart affirms in the above quote, the disciples saw Jesus as a conquering Messiah who would rescue Israel from the Romans. Their hopes were dashed after they saw Jesus arrested, tried, beaten, crucified, and buried. It was over. Jesus was dead.
No disrespect is intended here, I assure you. In describing the certainty of Jesus’ death, it seems appropriate to borrow from Charles Dickens. “Yes, Jesus was dead. Dead as a door-nail. There was no doubt whatever about that!”
Jesus’ followers, however, were in for a huge Easter surprise! Jesus had died on a Passover Friday. Following the Passover, early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to Jesus’ burial cave and found it empty. Right away she went to Peter and John and told them someone or a group of people — “they” — had removed Jesus body, and she didn’t know where they’d put it.
20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:1-2).
Doubtlessly curious, the two disciples went to the tomb themselves to see if they could figure out what had happened. What they would see would change their lives forever!
3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes (John 20:3-10).
John’s account rings with simplicity, and at the same time, authenticity. Here is an eyewitness simply relating what he actually had experienced. Peter and John started to make their way to the burial site. In their excitement and curiosity, they “ran together,” but soon John outran Peter, so he was the first to arrive. John, “stooping down and looking in,” saw Jesus’ grave clothes but didn’t venture in. Peter then arrived and went in. Inside, Peter “saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around his head.” The “handkerchief”—the “cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head” (NIV)—was separate from the rest of the linen cloths, “folded together in a place by itself.” At this point, John also entered, and “saw and believed.” Peter and John did not yet fully understand all that had occurred; verse 9 tells us that “as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Even so, this was a pivotal moment for these two close followers of Jesus in terms of their understanding and in terms of their commitment to the One who had taught and mentored them for three years.
Knowing About Burial Preparations Helps Us Understand What Peter and John Saw
Let’s rewind in our minds the events of the previous few days to Friday afternoon when Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. John 19:38-42 says that after Jesus had died on the cross and had been confirmed dead,
Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
According to Jewish custom of that day, no less than two persons were needed to prepare a body for burial. The body was washed thoroughly with lukewarm water. Those involved in the preparation made sure the mouth of the corpse was covered so that none of the water would get inside.2
After they had washed the body, those working on it prepared the burial spices. In Jesus’ case, probably 75 to 100 pounds of aromatic spices were used; we see in verse 39 that Nicodemus had brought with him “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” Myrrh, a gummy substance, was blended together with the spices and aloes—fragrant wood that had been pounded into dust particles. The preparers then wrapped the body in linen cloths that women had sewn together without using a knot a single time. A minimum of three linen garments had to be used.3
Beginning at the feet and moving toward the head, the preparers wrapped the body in the linen cloths, placing the myrrh and spices between the folds as they worked. They wrapped the body in this fashion from the feet to the armpits; then, with the deceased’s arms placed alongside the wrapped torso, preparers enveloped the arms in the linen and spices as well. They continued this process all the way up to the neck. For the head, they used an additional, separate cloth. What was the total weight of the encasement for an adult? Typically, about 117 to 120 pounds.4
Encasement is an appropriate word to use here, because that’s just what it was. The myrrh and spices placed between the linen cloths hardened. The grave clothes, therefore, did not consist of loose material but became a shell snugly surrounding the deceased individual.5
Back to the Tomb
Now, return to the tomb in your mind. Do you now see why Peter and John were blown away? What an Easter surprise this was! These disciples didn’t see the linen material that had enveloped Jesus’ body wadded up into a heap or otherwise loosely placed. Nor did they see the grave clothes neatly folded and resting where Jesus’ body had been situated after it was brought into the tomb; although, as the Scripture indicates, the headpiece was “folded together in a place by itself.” The “linen cloths lying there”—the grave clothes that had surrounded Jesus’ body—now were an empty shellmade of linen and hardened myrrh.6
Here was proof positive that no one had taken Jesus’ body. Had anyone or any group of people stolen it, they would have had to carry out the grave clothes with it! Otherwise, they would have had to cut open the encasement and pry the body loose—something they would have had neither the time nor the resources to do.
The hollow encasement lay there, intact. No rips, tears, or cuts! Even though Peter and John didn’t yet understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead, they knew that something supernatural had happened.
John testified that he “saw and believed.” No wonder!
And this was just the beginning. As Luke later would write, Jesus “also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them [the apostles] during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
A condensed version of this article is available here.
When I was growing up in the 60s, one of my favorite television shows was Lost in Space.
It must have been no surprise to my parents when I asked for a toy Lost in Space Robot for Christmas. Here is a video highlighting the features of this really cool toy.
That same Christmas, my younger sister was given a sweater that turned out to be a size or two larger than she needed. Piggy-backing on my excitement over receiving the robot, my sister wandered through the house with her arms flailing. “Warning! Warning! Too big! Too big!” she cried.
The Lost in Space Robot, of course, is known for issuing warnings.
What would Lost in Space have been like were it not for the Robot and his warnings? I’m glad we didn’t ever know!
While Lost in Space showcased warnings that had great entertainment value, some warnings are dead serious—as is the responsibility Christians have to convey certain warnings clearly and in a timely manner. Last week I affirmed that as believers, “we have been rightly concerned about the need to express love and compassion to those who disagree with us.” Then I lamented, “Yet I fear we have let this concern overshadow our responsibility to speak prophetically.”
It is this need for Christians to speak prophetically that I will endeavor to address today. The need is real at both the individual and corporate levels, but for reform to be ignited, pastors will need to provide the initial spark in their pulpits. As we said last week, “we now need a host of spokesmen who will uphold God-ordained marriage!” If you are a pastor, I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word. This includes encouraging your people to love others and meet needs in Jesus’ name, but it also includes equipping them to discern truth from error and training them to effectively make the case for marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. This will include warning the church and the culture about the ominous direction our nation currently is headed.
A God-Given Duty
The classic text highlighting the responsibility of God’s spokesperson to issue warnings is Ezekiel 33:1-9.
33:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”
While this passage is specific to Ezekiel’s responsibility to warn those in the path of judgment, it also reflects the duty all believers have to sound the alarm and convey urgent messages from God. This calling has a rich history in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Consider these men whom God appointed to warn the people of their generation.
God’s Spokesmen Warned Their Contemporaries
Noah. Hebrews 11:7 tells us, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” We read this verse and we’re tempted to cringe, aren’t we? The culture has so drilled into our minds that we must not judge—and we most certainly must never condemn—that we feel a bit uncomfortable with this statement about Noah. While it’s true that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” He didn’t mean for His followers to make no judgments at all. Discernment is essential. Jesus actually was telling believers not to be hypocritically judgmental.
The word translated condemned means just that—to condemn, but it also means to make others’ sins evident and conspicuous by one’s own righteous example. In Hebrews 11:7, this latter definition applies. We must never think this means Noah was arrogant, or condescending, or prideful about his righteousness or about the wickedness prevalent among his contemporaries. On the contrary, I believe he grieved for them and encouraged them to repent. In 2 Peter 2:5, Peter referred to Noah as a “herald of righteousness.” Obviously Noah proclaimed righteousness through his pure life and by building the ark in obedience to God, but he surely also must have encouraged those around him to join him on the ark before God’s judgment fell. Sadly, however, only “a few, that is, eight persons [just Noah and his family], were brought safely through water” because they took refuge in the ark (1 Pet. 3:20).
Moses. God used Moses to warn Pharaoh repeatedly about divine judgment. He also used Moses to warn the Hebrews of the coming death angel and to encourage them to run to safety by placing blood on the sides and tops of the doorways of their homes according to God’s instructions. Hebrews 11:27-28 says of Moses, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”
Jonah. We learn from the Old Testament book that bear’s Jonah’s name, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah actually wanted God to condemn the Ninevites, but the Lord went out of His way to show Jonah that he needed to be an agent of divine mercy and grace (see vv. 3-17). How did God want Jonah to be such an agent? By warning the Ninevites of God’s coming judgment! After his experience inside the fish’s belly (see chapter 2), God instructed Jonah once more to preach to Nineveh (see 3:1-2). At last, he obeyed. Jonah 3:4-10 reads in part,
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.…10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
You’d think Jonah would have been pleased with such an overwhelming response to his preaching, but he hadn’t yet learned just how deep and how wide God’s love and grace really were. God put Jonah back in the classroom. While the Lord earlier had used an animal to teach Jonah, this time He used a plant. The plant offered Jonah much needed shade at first, but then it withered and died, and Jonah was baking in the sun. When Jonah complained about the demise of the plant, God said to him, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11).
Despite Jonah’s imperfections, God used this reluctant prophet to urge the Ninevites to repent of their sins and thereby experience God’s mercy and grace.
John the Baptist. John prepared the way for the Messiah’s arrival by warning the people to repent and to change their way of living. He
went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:3-14).
Let us not forget that John also warned Herod, telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). He paid for that action with his life, but he didn’t fail to declare the truth, even to a king.
Peter. At Pentecost, a mere seven weeks after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter preached the good news of salvation to the people in Jerusalem. His message included warnings. You can read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-36. After the people heard the fisherman-turned-evangelist preach,
37 they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (vv. 37-41).
Yes, Peter warned his hearers of God’s coming judgment and encouraged them to receive divine forgiveness for their sins. In fact, here’s how the translators of the New International Version rendered Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”
Paul. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote, Christ “we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
Warnings Are an Essential Part of Effective Evangelism
We must understand that the good news about Jesus Christ is as wonderful as it is because the bad news about sin is as terrible as it is. If people don’t understand how hopeless their situations are without Christ, they surely cannot comprehend how precious and priceless God’s gift of salvation really is. In fact, it’s so valuable it could only be secured by the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.
Accordingly, warnings aren’t just appropriate. They are necessary. They’re even more necessary in our day, because, looking over the landscape of sermons preached in recent decades, we see that these messages have been bereft of biblical warnings.
Please read last week’s post to learn even more about why divine warnings about marriage are so urgent today. We could summarize this by saying that if America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage (something it clearly is doing), then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.
If America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage, then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued.Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.
As a pastor, you can help the church regain its prophetic voice by making sure you do not neglect your duty to warn God’s people and the culture at large. But what should you preach?
For over a year, I’ve been writing articles and posting them at www.wordfoundations.com. Many of these have been Bible studies that a preacher can easily adapt and use for a morning or evening sermon. I’m highlighting seven such posts here. I encourage you to consider using them in your preaching ministry in the coming weeks and months. Along with the seven, I’m also highlighting four additional posts that provide important background information. While thoroughly consistent with biblical truth, these four posts aren’t Bible studies. Even so, you may find ways to convey the information to your people, as it will enhance their understanding of the times in which they live and how they need to conduct themselves in them.
The Importance of Seeing the Big Picture—Our culture has not swallowed lies about sexuality and about marriage in a vacuum. Almost unconsciously, it traded theistic presuppositions about life for atheistic ones. Now it is embracing the conclusions that flow from those presuppositions.
Ten Ways Same-Sex Marriage Denies Reality—Here are Ten Ways Secularism, through same-sex marriage, is denying life in the real world. The consequences of pretending that things aren’t what they are can be very severe, so we as Christians must sound the alarm!
Sermon and Bible Study Material
Discernment Needed—Christians cannot be effectively equipped to warn others if they don’t heed the divine warnings God gives in the Bible. This study showcases numerous warnings against falling prey to the lies of the world. Make sure you and the members of your church aren’t deceived.
Clarity Needed—If you read, study, or preach just one of these messages, this is the one I hope you will choose. God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.
If you read or preach just one of these messages, please choose “Clarity Needed.” God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.
Esse quam videri—Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase that means “to be rather than to seem.” This article explores the ominous nature of a lie and the deadly destination to which it leads. How do we combat lies? We must counter them with the truth!
Compassion’s Mandate—Christians are told on nearly every front that refusing to accept and celebrate homosexuality and same-sex marriage is bigoted and hateful. Not so! Would a doctor who knows his patient has a deadly disease be compassionate to withhold that information? Of course not. Compassion’s mandate is to declare the truth in love.
The Supreme Court…Isn’t: Six Things the Bible Tells Us About the State—Christians need to know what the Bible teaches about government and governmental authority. This Bible study explores these teachings. Such authority is delegated by God and can be misused and abused. When government acts outside it’s God-given authority, believers have a duty to hold it accountable.
Reflections on Repentance—Repentance is seen everywhere as confining, restrictive, and burdensome. Of all people, we as believers know that on the other side of repentance is true freedom. As we present the truth to our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, we need to pray that God would open their eyes to see how refusing to repent means staying in bondage, and how repenting opens up a fresh, new world of liberty.
Keep Cultivating and Don’t Lose Heart—Declaring the truth in this culture is risky. This Bible study encourages believers to remember the eternal value of the principles they stand for over against the temporal nature of those things they are tempted to hold with a tight grip. Presenting the truth may require sacrifice, but God will bless with things far more valuable. Never give up!
Keep in mind that all of these posts were written in 2015, and many were written before the Supreme Court issued its marriage ruling. Adaptations still can easily be made. Be aware too that some internet links no longer are valid, but the material in each article still is.
I pray that this post will find its way into many pastors’ studies and many Bible study leaders’ homes. Please use this material to warn God’s people and the culture at large about the perils of the direction in which America is headed.
The writer of Hebrews issued this command and this warning to his readers—including you and me: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4). If we would honor marriage, we will never withhold the truth about it from a culture that is confused and misinformed. Nor will we fail to warn people.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. —Hebrews 13:4—
Realistically, the initial sparks that will ignite reform in our country will most likely be generated by pastors. Pastor, will you fulfill your duty?
Note: Scripture quotations in this post are from the New King James Version. An edition of this article that uses the New Living Translation is available here.
Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good but to make dead people live!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
—the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17—
“I was a bad lot,” a new believer told a preacher when recounting the place from which Christ had rescued him. “I drank. I pawned the furniture. I knocked my wife about. And now life is real life, and splendidly worthwhile.”
The preacher asked the man about how he was getting along with the men with whom he used to drink and carouse. That very day they had ridiculed him, telling him he surely didn’t believe the story that Jesus had turned water into wine (see John 2:1-11).
Since he was a new Christian, this man apparently hadn’t yet heard the story of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana—but that didn’t stop him from affirming the miracle he knew Christ had performed in his own life. Here’s what he told his friends: “I know nothing about water and wine, but I know this: that in my house Christ has turned beer into furniture; and that is a good enough miracle for me!”
That man and millions of others whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ through the years provide substantive evidence that Jesus was who claimed to be—God in the flesh—and that His death was substitutionary, paying sin’s penalty for everyone who would come to Him in faith. Even more specifically, their transformed lives also testify to the historical reality that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s true that for the inquirer, investigating the events surrounding Jesus’ death and reported resurrection are essential to determining just how likely it is that He returned to life—but other aspects of the resurrection are important as well. Today I want to examine evidence beyond eyewitness accounts associated with the resurrection: the transformed life of one of Jesus’ well-known followers—a fisherman named Peter.
Peter was quite sincere in his devotion to Christ, but he frequently inserted his foot in his mouth. Peter’s impulsiveness and fickleness may actually sometimes remind us of ourselves!
In Matthew 14:22-33, while he did have enough faith to venture out from the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus, Peter became afraid and began to sink “when he saw that the wind was boisterous.” Jesus rescued Peter and then gently challenged him with the words “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
In Matthew 16:13-23, the Lord asked his closest followers “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” After they reported what the people were saying, Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter rightly answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commended him for his answer, telling him, that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” This was truly awesome, but just a short time later, when the Lord explained how He would be persecuted, killed, and raised to life again, Peter rebuked Him: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Jesus responded by rebuking Peter and the sinister, evil source from which Peter’s idea had come: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
In Matthew 17:1-8, when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ “face shown like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and One for Elijah.’”
In the upper room, on the occasion of the Passover celebration, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet (see John 13:1-20). When the Lord approached Peter to wash his feet, Peter said,
6 “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
In this same upper room on the very same evening, Jesus warned his closest followers they would desert Him (see 26:31-35). Peter denied it outright, saying,
33 “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
And so said all the disciples.
How brash can a man be? Peter would learn the hard way. Jesus was arrested and placed on trial, and Peter followed to see what would happen. Waiting in the high priest’s courtyard, the fisherman was asked three times about having been with Jesus, and he denied it strongly each time, even swearing the second and third times. Then the rooster crowed, and “Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly” (see Matt. 26:57-58,69-75).
Jesus was right about the other disciples, too. Earlier, at the time of the Lord’s arrest, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (26:56).
Peter, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples as well, were extremely unlikely to become leaders who would change the world. Yet after His resurrection Jesus said to them, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Just how could Peter, as fickle as he was, along with the other cowardly followers of Christ, boldly witness to the world? We see the twofold answer in (1) the fact that Jesus indicated to His followers they would be his witnesses after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and (2) in the fact that Jesus made this statement after He had been raised from the dead. These two events were transformational.
Significantly, in one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to Peter, the Lord gently challenged him by giving him three opportunities to tell Him that he loved Him. It was the same number of times Peter had denied the Lord. Jesus also directed him three times, “Feed My lambs.…Tend My sheep.…Feed My sheep.” Furthermore, Jesus told him, “Follow Me.” (see John 21:15-19).
Despite Peter’s failures, the Lord wasn’t through with this man who by nature was outspoken and impulsive. In fact, God would use him to shake the world. Contrast the old Peter to the new.
At Pentecost, a mere fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter preached the sermon that marked the birth of the church. His sermon is recorded in Acts 2:14-39. In it, the fisherman-turned-preacher declared,
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
In Acts 3, Peter and John created a controversy by being used of God to heal a man who never had been able to walk. After the man had been healed, these spokesmen of God used the occasion to credit Jesus publicly for the healing. Peter boldly asserted,
12 “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
The healing and the public preaching greatly displeased the Jewish leaders: “Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:1-2). They arrested Peter and John and asked them how they healed the man. Full of the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaimed it should be
10 “known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which as become the chief cornerstone. 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vv. 10-12).
Significantly, when the Jewish leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13). They warned the apostles not to preach or teach Jesus any more, but they were undeterred. We can summarize their response this way: “We can’t help it! We have to talk about what we have seen and heard!” (see vv. 14-22).
In Acts 5:17-32, the apostles were arrested again and imprisoned by the Jewish leaders. An angel freed them and told them to preach the truth of Christ at the temple, and they obeyed. The Jews put them on trial once again. The high priest told them,
28 “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
This doesn’t sound at all like the man who, just a few weeks before, had been too embarrassed to admit he had been with Jesus, does it? Later, in writing to the Corinthian believers, the apostle Paul would explain what had happened to Peter—and to himself as well.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed (1 Cor. 15:3-11, emphasis added).
We see that Peter never got over Jesus’ resurrection. It was years later, near the end of his life, when, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter wrote these words (1 Peter 1:17-21) to persecuted believers.
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Indeed, Peter was a different man after Jesus rose from the dead—and the stark difference between the former man and the new man provides strong evidence Jesus really was raised. Having been transformed by Jesus’ return to life, Peter let it be known that he could not take credit for the changes that had taken place. Like a turtle on a fence post, he didn’t get where he was on his own.
Peter is not alone, for countless lives have been transformed by the resurrected Christ. Are you among those Jesus has brought from death to life? If you aren’t yet, you can become such a person today. What more appropriate time could there be than Easter to allow Christ to make you a new person? If you a believer already, then make sure your life testifies to Christ’s resurrection as a sure fact of history.
After all, if Christ was powerful enough to come back from the dead, then He easily can turn water into wine—and beer into furniture!