The account of the resurrection of Jesus is what all of Christianity hinges on. If we don’t take the time to immerse ourselves in the moment and try to imagine what it was like for those that were there at time, we can easily miss how amazing it was. Two followers have two very different experiences with their Savior and He uses them both.
Mary, as we know, was a devoted follower of Jesus and has come to the tomb to prepare His body for burial. This process had been delayed because of the Sabbath.
(Side note: Jewish “days” actually start the evening before. Jesus died on Friday afternoon at the end of Day 1. The Sabbath began Friday evening and lasted through Saturday evening which was Day 2. Mary arrives at the tomb early in the morning on Sunday, Day 3.)
In shock and grief at discovering the tomb is empty, she runs to the disciples to tell them that Jesus’s body is missing. After the 2 men have come and gone from the tomb, Mary stands just outside of it, weeping.
Just imagine the emotional anguish she must have been feeling.
Not only was she mourning the brutal death of her beloved teacher, but now she could not even find closure in giving Him a proper burial. The heartache that she was experiencing was deep. Her sobs didn’t just come from her eyes but from the depths of her soul.
And then she hears Him say her name…“Mary.”
The eyes of her heart are suddenly opened and she recognizes that the man standing before her is Jesus. Her mourning is turned into an ecstatic celebration. He lives!!
This is an excellent representation of what the “salvation experience” is like for many people.
There is a moment when everything you have been hearing and learning just clicks into place and you suddenly SEE the Truth. The eyes of your soul are opened and you see your sin. You see your need for a Savior. You see Jesus offering forgiveness, not because you have done anything to earn it, but because of the gift of grace. This revelation for you is so exciting and impactful that, as Mary does in John 1:18, you cannot help but tell others about it!
(For more on the importance of this revelation, read What is Truth?)
Peter, as we know, was one of the twelve disciples Jesus called to follow Him when He began His public ministry. He was the disciple that (briefly) walked on water in Matthew 14. He was the disciple that confessed Jesus was the Christ in Matthew 16. He was one of the three disciples that witnessed Jesus’s transfiguration in Matthew 17.
Peter was also the disciple that denied Jesus three times in Matthew 26.
So what happened there?!
Peter had been walking so closely with Jesus for all that time yet is faith wavered in a REALLY BIG WAY. Does that mean that His faith wasn’t real to begin with? Absolutely not!
When Believers fall into sin, there are those that will question the legitimacy of their salvation.
A Believer may even doubt it themselves because they are so devastated by their sin. The Bible teaches that proof of one’s heart truly belongs to Christ will be seen in the spiritual fruit they produce in their life. This is something that we cannot deny and must watch for.
However, there is also the real possibility of a Believer’s life not bearing much, if any fruit, for a time because of rebellion, fear, or doubt. This could be brought on by worldly temptations or Satan’s schemes to stop a Believer from sharing the Truth. (You can read about the reality of spiritual warfare in Eph 6:10-12.)
There are two things we must accept:
- Once you are saved, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Esp 1:13) and your standing before God canNOT be changed, no matter what you do. This is not a license to sin, of course. True conversion produces a desire to live righteously, but we will not do that perfectly all the time. This is what the process of sanctification is all about!
- We don’t know another person’s heart and cannot determine if someone is truly saved or not. All we can do is continue to love them enough to point them to Jesus over and over and over again and trust the Holy Spirit to do the necessary work on their heart.
Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times and each time Peter answers, he gets more and more upset.
John 21:17 says, “Peter was grieved.” He wasn’t just sad that Jesus kept asking, but deeply distressed and felt regret for what he had done. This is a sign of his true devotion to Jesus and will also be the experience of a Believer when they repent of their sin.
Jesus was not being cruel with His repetitive question, but rather calling Peter into a deeper understanding of the forgiveness He offered. Jesus was about to use Peter to do some amazing things and wanted him to be so grounded in his faith and he would not falter when persecution came.
Before God uses Believers in big ways, He often calls them to walk through a wilderness experience. When we are struggling with sin, fear and/or doubt, God is preparing our hearts for spiritual growth so that we are on fire for Him and ready to preach His son’s name to the world! He chooses and uses failures.
A new Believer’s excitement and a seasoned Believer’s rekindled fire are both ways that God furthers His kingdom.
All Believers are called to share the Gospel with passion because of what Christ has done for them through His death and resurrection.