“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24).
While a student in seminary, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Israel. It was a phenomenal, immersive experience. I visited the Garden Tomb, one of the sites in which Jesus is purported to have been buried. I bent over and ducked beneath the low entrance. As I looked left and right, my convictions were confirmed. The grave was empty. On that account, at least, the site qualified.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood before thousands of people and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaimed that Jesus Christ was alive, victorious over the grave. This liberating message might have been just as pointed and powerful coming from another disciple’s lips. But no disciple would be more delighted than Peter to announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Scripture’s record of Peter’s journey toward spiritual maturation highlights his strengths and weaknesses. Although each of the disciples possessed character flaws and personality dents, Peter’s unresolved issues were probably more difficult to mask. He was simply too tempestuous and outspoken, too often running his mouth before running his mind. When Jesus first predicted His coming suffering, Peter responded impulsively, “Never, Lord. . . . This shall never happen to you” (Matt. 16:22). Peter believed Jesus was the Christ, and he could not imagine the Christ being conquered by death. Shocked by the first part of Jesus’ announcement, Peter must have become deaf to the last part: and on the third day be raised to life. Peter so insisted that Jesus not die that at the Transfiguration he offered his services as a handyman to “put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4).
Can you blame him? Peter was privileged to witness unforgettable miracles, signs, and wonders during Jesus’ dynamic teaching, healing, and preaching ministry. Peter served hundreds bread and fish when Jesus fed the 5,000 and 4,000 (Matt. 14:19-21; 15:36-38). Peter walked on water with Jesus (Matt. 14:28, 29). Peter saw Jesus heal his mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38, 39). Peter observed Jesus treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of age, gender, class, or nationality. Peter’s life was better because of Jesus, and he signified his loyalty to Jesus saying, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will,” and “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Matt. 26:33; Luke 22:33).
Though these claims were admirable, Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. True to his tendency toward inconsistency, Peter would fail to live up to his declarations of determined devotion. When Jesus could have used the cooperative prayers of intercession, Peter fell asleep (Matt. 26:40). When Jesus could have been encouraged by the loyal presence of a companion, Peter ran away (Mark 14:50). When Jesus could have been represented by a faithful friend, Peter denied knowing Him three times, just as Jesus foretold (Luke 22:34).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is every sinner’s hope of salvation—our only hope; our unique hope; our omnipotent hope.
Realizing the error of his lapse in judgment and feeling the chilly winds of regret, Peter “pressed on in solitude and darkness, he knew not and cared not whither. At last he found himself in Gethsemane. The scene of a few hours before came vividly to his mind. The suffering face of his Lord, stained with bloody sweat and convulsed with anguish, rose before him. . . . It was torture to his bleeding heart to know that he had added the heaviest burden to the Saviour’s humiliation and grief. On the very spot where Jesus had poured out His soul in agony to His Father, Peter fell upon his face, and wished that he might die.”1
The inner pain of personal failure pierced Peter’s heart. It was a pain to which many can relate. Peter is not the only one who has ever felt irredeemable. Today, hundreds of thousands are intimately acquainted with the foreboding sense of guilt and shame that often accompanies poor choices. And it is to Peter and the entire human family that this message is given: there is forgiveness after failure.
Do you have a checkered past? Jesus forgives. Are your hands soiled from drug dealing? Jesus forgives. Is your tongue tainted from lying? Jesus forgives. Was your reputation ruined by infidelity? Jesus forgives. Were you imprisoned for youthful mistakes? Jesus forgives. Are you shackled by secret sin? Jesus forgives. Have you denied Jesus again, and again? Jesus forgives that, too.
On resurrection Sunday, Peter would learn that he was not forgotten. An angel gave Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome these instructions after they found the empty tomb: “‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said, ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 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 16:6, 7). The women were specifically directed to make sure Peter received the news. Jesus was back from the grave. Peter needed to know that all hope was not lost. “Peter . . . got up and ran to the tomb,” desperate to know if Jesus had really risen (Luke 24:12).
Like the women who bore the good news to him, Peter did not find Jesus at the tomb (John 20:3-7). However, the apostle Paul said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Jesus gave Cephas (Peter’s Aramaic name) a personal audience at some point after His resurrection (see Luke 24:34). We do not know the exact details of this conversation or if any words were exchanged at all, but we do know Peter saw the risen Lord with his own eyes.
Perhaps it was this moment that brought everything together for Peter. Beholding Jesus for himself, he was convinced that absolutely nothing could have kept Him in the grave. Ellen White says, “Mountains piled upon mountains over His sepulcher could not have prevented Him from coming forth.”2 This is the truth Peter preached and believed.
And you, dear reader, what about you? Do you believe Jesus lives? I am not speaking primarily of the historicity of His resurrection. Rather, do you believe Jesus lives in and for you? The New Testament says, “But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:24, 25). Jesus prays for you.
Peter would later write, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3, 4). Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14-17).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is every sinner’s hope of salvation—our only hope; our unique hope; our omnipotent hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the preacher’s authority. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of the believer’s faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the constraining compulsion for my sharing hope with you and our sharing with the whole world. Our hope is the great news that Jesus lives. And “because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”3
Richard D. Martin loves to run: marathons and his mind. He pastors the New Life Adventist Church, in Hampton, Virginia, United States.