[This is the journal entry from my quiet time with God today.]
Look: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:7)
This is part of what the young man in white, who I presume to be an angel, told the women at Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter morning. Jesus, Who had died on the cross, was now risen from the dead and would meet His followers in the Galilee region.
But the phrasing caught my attention this morning: “tell his disciples and Peter.” When read as and, the Greek word kai, could mean several things in this sentence:
1) It could mean that, because of his denial of Jesus on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter was no longer considered a disciple. The fact that in John 21, Jesus makes a point of restoring Peter to fellowship with Him three times might be read in support of such a reading. But if Peter was being considered, at least temporarily, excommunicated, he would hardly be invited to a gathering of disciples with the risen Jesus. Besides, all of the disciples denied or betrayed Jesus in some way.
2) If read as and, kai could also be seen as singling Peter out for special mention as the designated leader of the Church that Jesus is founding. This seems to be the preferred meaning among most scholars, I think, and I have no particular quibble with it.
But this morning, a third possible interpretation hit me. That little Greek word kai can also mean even or also. What if the angel’s invitation was meant to be a word of reassurance to Peter, whose denial of Jesus had been so cowardly, so public, and so bitter to Peter himself that he wept over it?
What if the angel was saying, “tell his disciples, even Peter who feels ashamed over his denial of Jesus to meet Jesus in Galilee”? Even Peter, who denied knowing Jesus to a lowly servant girl who posed no threat to him, is invited back.
After all, Peter, who was inclined to pride and shame (two sides of the same coin), may have concluded that his sin was unforgivable. “You tell Peter that the Lord wants to see him too,” the angel may be saying.
Even if you accept the second interpretation above, it wouldn’t preclude translating kai as even, not and.
Listen: The implications for me this morning is that Jesus, just as He wanted to see Peter, even wants to see me.
Despite the condition of sin into which I, like the rest of the human race, was born.
Despite the sins I've committed because of my fallen condition.
Despite my failings.
His grace includes me because He is good and because I, however inconsistently, by the power and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, repent and believe in Jesus and the good news His death and resurrection brings to sinners like me.
The angel seems to be telling Peter that Peter’s sense of guilt need not lead him into shame.
I’ve noticed the difference between these two things, guilt and shame.
Guilt is the prick to one’s conscience used by God to turn us back to Him when we’ve heard the good news of Jesus and realize that we've acted out of our sinful nature and sought to be our own gods.
Shame is the conclusion we draw that our sins make us beyond redemption, forgiveness, or renewal, that God is impotent to save us.
Guilt can turn us to Christ.
Shame turns us ever-inward, away from God and His grace.
I think that Peter was so inclined to self-sufficiency that after he had denied Jesus, he may have believed that he was forever damned. Peter still was putting too much faith in himself, even in his own sense of guilt. There is a subtle egotism and pride involved in refusing to be forgiven, in wallowing in shame, in refusing to allow Christ to have dominion over our sins.
But, if this is how Peter was feeling, the angel would have none of it. He tells the women at the tomb, “Tell his disciples, even Peter!”
When I pronounce absolution during worship, God wants me to remember, “These words are for you too, Mark. Yes, you’ve been a sinner again today and this week. You are a sinner, after all: Sinners sin. But you are a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ. When you turn (repent) and trust Christ with your life, including all of your sins, you’re forgiven. The only people beyond repair are those who stop turning to My Son, who refuse it when the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin or when the Holy Spirit convinces them of My grace. The only ones who can’t be saved are the ones who are too focused on themselves to turn to Christ.”
I’m sure that Peter felt like a failure after Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Truth is, he was. But that didn’t make him beyond Christ’s capacity to save him from himself, to give him life. In Christ, God can save, restore, renew, empower, enliven, give resurrection to anybody, even Peter, even me.
Respond: Thank You, Lord, for this reminder of Your grace. Help me today to not be afraid to own my sin and my sins before You and in Jesus’ name, see You crucify my sinful nature so that You can be about the work of making me over in Jesus’ image. I don’t deserve Your grace. But in Christ, it comes even to me. In the name of Jesus, I thank, praise, honor, and glorify You. Amen
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]