Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:12)
There is no wonder why Peter went home marveling. If there was any disciple who came face to face with the darkness of Good Friday, and the shame, it was Peter.
In fact, we can’t help but imagine that as Jesus’ body was on the cross, Peter was still hidden away in remorse, weeping bitterly. As Jesus was taking his final breath, Peter must have been shaking his head: I denied him. I swore off all allegiance to him. I said I didn’t know him.
The Bitter Shame
The sting of Peter’s denial must have tormented him, and perhaps adding insult to injury, he recalled how Jesus had foretold it all would happen. “Simon, Simon,” Jesus had said, “Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).
But Peter couldn’t believe it. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33), he replied so confidently, only to cave hours later as a young girl recognized him and announced, “This man was also with [Jesus]” (Luke 22:56).
You may know how the story goes. Peter denied that he was a disciple of Jesus — not only once, not twice, but three times. And Luke tells us, upon hearing the rooster crow, “he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). Far from brave, Peter played the coward. When the call for courage came, when the chance of prison and death were actual possibilities, he went away sheepishly.
He Is Not Here
But Peter also remembered — surely he recalled — what else Jesus foretold, that after he would be killed, on the third day, he would rise (Luke 18:33). And so, as the Son of God was laid in darkness, Peter, through his tears, must have clung to those words. He said he would rise on the third day.
And in those unseen moments, as Peter waited in pain, in hope, Jesus was making a way. He was conquering the grave, undoing death. Then came Sunday morning, when the ground began to shake, when the stone was rolled away. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, along with other women, went to the tomb, but Jesus wasn’t there. They hurried back to tell the huddled disciples what the angel had said: “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6).
While the others thought it was nonsense, an idle tale of disillusioned optimists, Peter stood up and remembered — surely he recalled — what Jesus had said. Without inhibition, holding on to his last thread of hope, he took off running to the tomb, legs stretching, arms pumping, heart pounding, trying to get to that tomb, until he made it, stooped, and looked at the place Jesus had been laid.
Just linen cloths. Jesus was not there.
Wave After Wave
And he went home marveling. Marveling. He was astonished then about what he would later know for sure — that certainly Jesus had loved us to the uttermost, that indeed, the love of Jesus is so powerful, so unbreakable, that its torrent penetrated darkness in triumph until, wave after wave, it crashes over the lives of his people.
The Messiah who died in our place is now our resurrected King, defeating humanity’s greatest enemy, and forever loosing the sting of death against us. That kind of greatness, that kind of love, changes things.
Peter had reason to marvel, and so do we. The resurrection of Jesus means victory over death, and victory over our shame — over our fears. The darkness that Peter saw in his frailty was flooded with the light of Jesus’s faithfulness. In his strength, Peter denied Jesus. He sold out. But in Jesus’ strength, in the strength that secured Peter’s everlasting good, Peter was made brave. He was made brave — which means, it’s not by his work, but the death-defying work of Jesus.
Because Jesus is risen, Peter could stand. And so can we. Though our faith is tested, though hardships will come, no fear can hinder the love that made a way.