It is just a fragment of a verse: “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34).” On the day that changed the world, Jesus took time to personally appear to Simon Peter. Peter, of course, would become the leader of the church, the preacher of the first Christian sermon, and the one who broke the racial barrier by offering the gospel to the Gentiles. Most scholars agree with the tradition that Peter provided Mark with the stories for his gospel. Yet there is no detail of this encounter in Mark’s gospel. Only Luke mentions it. Why?
Imagine the President calling you personally. I’d sure post it on Facebook. I’d probably write a column about what was said. One thing is for sure; I wouldn’t keep quiet about it.
I can’t help but wonder how this encounter between Jesus and Peter happened. Maybe Peter was haunted by the events of early Friday morning. He had vowed he would never deny Jesus, he would never run away, he would never be a coward. In the span of minutes, he broke all his promises and hid in shame the rest of the day.
Saturday after the crucifixion was a day of rest. Travel was forbidden. Peter was house bound with the other disciples, perhaps still in the upper room. When Sunday dawns, it is time to make plans for the next chapter of life.
All travel plans are put on hold by Mary’s news that the tomb of Jesus is empty. Peter and John run to the tomb. John gets there first; Peter arrives and goes in; John follows. John believes. Peter still has questions.
Peter and John go back to the other disciples. No one knows what happened in that meeting. My hunch is they argued (they were good at that). John argues Jesus is risen. He puts together all of Jesus’ teachings, predictions, and the empty tomb, and believes resurrection is the only logical possibility. Other disciples are saying “No way!” Some argue to get out of town now; others say let’s wait and see.
I wonder if Peter was off in a corner, for once not the leader. Maybe part of him hoped it was true. Maybe part of him was worried it was true. What do you say to the Risen Lord you denied three times?
Did Peter go for a walk to get out of the house while everyone argued? Did he slip down back streets where no one was likely to see him and identify him as one of Jesus’ disciples? Did he find an unmarked trail up the Mount of Olives to be alone? Did he look down at the city, seeing the Temple Jesus cleansed, the hill where Jesus died and the house of the Chief Priest, where he had denied Jesus?
Maybe it was at this moment that Jesus appeared to Peter. I can imagine Jesus coming up behind Peter, tapping him on the shoulder, and saying, “Hi Rocky!” Peter would have nearly jumped out of his skin, hearing that voice he knew so well.
When Peter turned and saw Jesus’ face, what did he see? I imagine Jesus smiling at him. Peter might have taken two steps back in shock. Did Jesus reach out and bear hug Peter? I can see him doing that.
What did Jesus say? “I forgive you?” Did Jesus remember another moment with Peter, when he walked on the water and his fear got the best of him? When Peter started to sink, Jesus grabbed his hand, and said, “O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” I wonder if Jesus repeated those same words again, with a twinkle in his eye.
We will never know what happened during Jesus’ encounter with Peter. My hunch is the moment was too sacred for Peter, too holy to ever describe.
Sometimes if you try to describe something amazing, it makes it diminish in your soul. Telling the story makes it lose size and power. I think that’s what happened to Peter. This was the holiest moment of all, to be treasured and never diminished.
Everyone needs that kind of moment with Jesus. Have you had yours?