LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
May 5, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.
Among the ten resurrection appearances recorded in the New Testament in the period between Passover and Pentecost are two that are given with no record of the conversation whatsoever. They are obviously important in the post resurrection instruction of the Apostles, but they deal with individual matters which we can reasonably deduce, but which are kept private in the sacred text. They are the meetings of Jesus with Peter and with James.
The rendezvous with Peter is intimated in the conversation of Jesus with the women at the tomb. They are instructed to, “Go tell his disciples, and Peter.” It is also recorded as part of the report of Cleopas and his companion to the Disciples on Sunday evening. “It is true! The Lord has risen and appeared to Peter.” It is also mentioned by Paul in his list of appearances in First Corinthians 15. It must have taken place sometime during the day on Sunday, because Peter was back with the apostolic band on Sunday evening in the upper room of the home of Mary of Jerusalem.
Although it may seem strange that a personal appearance of Jesus to one of the disciples gets considerable attention in the text of the Gospels, with no record of the actual event, the matter of that encounter would have been intensely personal. Peter had separated himself from the disciples in his denial that he ever knew Jesus. His words are recorded in Matthew 26:74. Resorting to the course language of a Galilean fisherman, he says, “I don’t know the man.” That was very late on Thursday evening, most likely, after midnight.
This break with the Apostles had to be healed if Peter was to serve the Church following Pentecost, and to open the Kingdom in the first preaching of the Gospel as recorded in Acts. It could only be done with a personal encounter, expressed in Hebrew with the phrase “pan al pan,” or “face to face.” The breach was healed and Peter was back with the Apostles by Sunday evening.
Peter’s problem was guilt, generated by a specific act of denial and betrayal caused by fear. The Apostle certainly experienced his Lord’s forgiveness, and overcame his fear in his later ministry. He was crucified upside down by the Romans at his own request because he felt unworthy to be crucified as his Lord Jesus.
We know the results of this personal interview with Jesus. We know what the problem was that had to be dealt with. We can also infer that the conversation was intensely emotional and very difficult for Peter. We can hardly think that Peter had difficulty in repenting, or asking for forgiveness. I have the feeling that he had enormous difficulty in accepting it. Repentance is a most difficult act of the will. Sometimes the problem is an inability to accept personal guilt. At other times the problem is the inability to accept the forgiveness offered. Peter’s offense was against Jesus. If Jesus forgave him, and he certainly did, the record was clear. But, it is not as easy as it sounds. Since human nature does not change, I dare say the problem is still with us. Peter’s case offers us hope when we face a similar situation.
Next week we will take a look at James.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).