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The Day Peter Ranby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection (1898), by Euguene Burnand (1850-1921), Paris, Musée d'Orsay. Larger image.
Peter tossed sleeplessly, unable to find a position that felt comfortable. Outside, he could hear the sounds of Jerusalem stirring to life. This city he had once loved to visit, he now hated. It held too many painful memories impossible to erase from his mind. Today he would leave for Galilee and fishing, though even fishing held no allure for him now. Nothing did.
"How could I have so utterly shamed himself? How could I? Peter, you d--- coward!"For the thousandth time he cursed himself. "He was my friend! How could I have done this to my very best friend?"
He could see Jesus riding that donkey down the hill into Jerusalem to the cheers of thousands. He saw him in hot anger overturning coin-laden tables in the temple. "You have made my Father's house a den of thieves!" the Master had told them in carefully measured but biting words.
Peter recalled blind men abruptly seeing, lame men suddenly walking, and loathsome lepers' skin turning baby-soft within a moment of Jesus' touch. He saw Jesus' smile, his compassion, his hours of gentle teaching. He felt the Master's hand on his shoulder after a long day of caring for the multitudes. The accompanying words repeated themselves over and over in his mind, "Thanks, Peter, for your help today. You are a faithful friend ... a faithful friend ... a faithful friend." Tears began to well up in Peter's eyes. Faithful? Me?
When the High Priest's soldiers had tried to arrest Jesus, Peter had defended his Master with a sword. But later, when a servant girl had challenged him with: "You're one of his disciples, aren't you?" he had denied it with an oath. A mere servant girl! But again and again he had compounded the cowardly lie until the cock crowed, and Jesus' eyes from far across the courtyard met his. Sad, disappointed eyes. Then he had broken and run. Run from the High Priest's home into the dark streets. Run until he could run no more. Run until he had flung himself onto the cobbled streets sobbing.
Later that morning he had watched from a distance as they mocked and tormented his friend, finally nailing hands and feet with huge spikes, and suspending him from a cross until his life was spent. He couldn't bear another day in this city!
The thin light of dawn had appeared under the door. Night was finally over; today he would leave. Today he would run away, back to the only life he knew. Today Peter would leave this bloody city behind.
Bang! Bang! The nearby door shook as someone kept banging on it. Peter reached for his sword, and quietly took his place behind the door.
"Peter, John, it's Mary! Let me in."
It was a woman's voice, Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus' close friends who had traveled with them for months. He unbolted the door and Mary slipped inside. She took several deep breaths before she could speak, then blurted out her message: "They've stolen the body! Jesus' body is gone, and we don't know where they've put him!"
John, who was wide awake by now, looked at Peter, and then threw on his clothes. Peter was out the door running, running down the streets, tearing around corners, headed for the garden tomb where Jesus' body had been laid.
Now John was close behind. Younger and faster, John soon outdistanced Peter. By the time Peter got to the tomb, John was standing outside the door peering in. The huge stone, designed to prevent desecration of the tomb, was rolled away. Peter brushed inside. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the damp limestone cave.
There was the linen gravecloth that had been wrapped turn after turn around the body. It lay on the chiseled stone shelf where the body had been. Yet now with nothing inside, its coils lay collapsed, empty, like a chrysalis after the butterfly has emerged. Folded separately was the cloth that had been around Jesus' head.
Peter looked at John and motioned him inside. How curious! If the tomb had been robbed and the body stolen, he would have expected the wrappings to be nowhere in sight. Or perhaps strewn in haste around the narrow stone room. Yet here they were, orderly, as if laid aside, no longer needed.
John looked at Peter. Peter looked at John. Peter could catch the faintest smile playing at the corners of John's mouth.
What if ...? What if ... he is risen?
Peter walked back into Jerusalem, but each step was a bit quicker than the one before. What if he is risen?
As Peter turned the corner onto the street where he was staying he saw a figure waiting for him at the door. A very familiar figure — Jesus!
Peter ran to meet him!
The Scripture records, "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 scripture, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them assembled together and saying, 'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon'" (Luke 24.33-34). Note: Peter is referred to by three names in Scripture: Simon son of Jonas, his Hebrew name, Peter (Rock, the Greek form of the name Jesus bestowed on him), and Cephas (the Aramaic word for Rock).
This story is based on John 20:1-9.
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