In this week following Easter and the resurrection of Jesus I have been thinking about the disciples and other close followers and how they all reacted to the traumatic experience of first witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus and then on Easter Sunday hearing the news that Jesus was indeed alive. Through these life changing days we see many different reactions and emotions from those who had been close to Jesus during his time on earth. On resurrection morning the women who discovered the empty tomb were firstly totally devastated and in complete grief for the loss of Jesus. Moments later when they realise that Jesus is standing before them these negative emotions soon change to joy and a compelling realisation that their Lord is raised from the dead. The women instantly run to tell others and share the news.
Later on resurrection day Jesus appears again to his disciples and John chapter 20:20 describes how the disciples were “overjoyed when they saw the Lord”. There was of course one disciple missing to witness this. Thomas was absent and when later the other disciples retold what had happened, Thomas was unable to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Thomas famously claimed that unless he could see for himself and touch the wounds of Jesus he could not believe. As is often our experience, doubt and unbelief filled Thomas and he was unable to see or experience the truth of the resurrection.
Peter, the disciple who had denied Jesus three times leading up the crucifixion on hearing the news that Jesus is alive, immediately ran to the empty tomb and when he saw the empty grave clothes he wondered what had happened. Peter is listed by the apostle Paul as the first of the disciples to see the risen Jesus. It is difficult to imagine the mix of emotions felt by Peter when he witnessed his Lord alive. As is with us when we stumble and fail God, Peter surely will have felt regret, sadness and overwhelming negative thoughts about his standing in God. Seeing the risen Jesus, changed all this for Peter, the negativity disappeared and Peter realised that he had an amazing future if he loved and trusted his Lord. It is interesting that in restoring Peter, Jesus doesn’t refer in any way to Peter’s failures before the crucifixion, instead Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times and gives Peter a great command to feed his sheep. Peter as we know went on to become one of the greatest apostles leading the early church and was used mightily by God.
We know that the crucifixion and days that followed were traumatic and a time of great crisis and immense change for the disciples and followers of Jesus. Through the crisis and change they all made different choices and felt different emotions that drove their response to their changing circumstances. For Peter who had failed God so significantly, he chose to draw close to God again, to trust and love God like never before and as a result Peter was used mightily in the days and years that followed the resurrection. There is a key lesson here for us too, no matter how we have failed God in the past, the current crisis presents an opportunity for us to draw closer to God, to trust and serve God more than ever before.
Crisis and change always present choices and opportunities. Let’s be encouraged by all we have heard and experienced over Easter. I encourage you to take the opportunity that this lockdown presents. Choose to draw close to God to overcome fear, uncertainty and unbelief, and come to trust and love him more. We know that God will never disappoint for he truly is our “refuge and strength”.
God bless you all