When I was a teenager, my friends and I took part in our city’s production of the Passion Play during Easter week. We practiced for months for the week long performances in which we were part of the crowd that both welcomed and condemned Jesus. We began by waving palm branches and finished with the shaking of our fists. We stood at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion scene and slowly changed our mockery to grieving as we realized just who this Jesus was. As the theatrical lightning and thunder were set off and the temple curtain split, our role was to run down the aisle and out in sheer terror. We would get to the back of the auditorium and collapse in the lobby. Barefoot, in our little ‘Jerusalem frocks’ as we called them, we would just sit and watch the rest of the last scene play out – and that’s when my favorite part of the whole night would come to pass.
You see, the man who played Peter was my favorite. He had a way with this role. He was a rather large African-American youth pastor with a voice that just commanded attention. He was also one of the most gentle souls I had ever met. His role as Peter consisted in being by Jesus’ side, falling asleep in the garden, and denying his Savior three times. He ran out in utter shame before the crucifixion, but Peters role was not finished yet.
As the women arrived at the empty tomb, there was an incredible message waiting for them via a “young man clothed in a long white robe”. (Can we just pause for a moment and recognize how amazing this in itself is?)
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:6-7
Did you catch that? “And Peter…”
This always fascinated me. He singles Peter out, even though he is certainly one of the disciples. The one who ran out in shame is being called back. By God Himself. By name.
As the women ran from the tomb to go and tell the fearful disciples the news, our Peter would stand in the back of the auditorium pacing and wringing his hands. Every night. He would pray and weep as he prepared himself for the grand finish, and we would sit on the floor weeping with him because we knew what was coming.
As the music changed from slow and mournful to faster and louder, our Peter took his place at the back entrance. Like a bride waiting to make her entrance, he stood in the door wiping his eyes praying out loud for the Holy Spirit to fall. Hundreds of people were about to hear the greatest possible news.
The music paused, and he tore up the aisle like a kid on Christmas morning, screaming “He’s alive! He’s alive!” I still remember the sight of hundreds of people simultaneously jerking their heads to see this unexpected sight. Our Peter never fully got out the words without crying. I never once watched it without weeping with joy. People in the audience would jump to their feet with hands held high. The story we all had heard countless times was jumping off the page right into our hearts.
I miss those days when Easter comes around. I long for people to get that excited about the story. I cried yesterday telling my boys this story because it’s still that fresh in my memory. We are all Peter. We fall asleep, deny, and run. How amazing that Jesus calls us back by name and invites us back to the table He has prepared.
Easter is so much more than wearing our best outfits to a lovely Easter service. I hope your Easter is far more than just “nice”… I hope it leaps off the pages and becomes a truth you carry all year long.
Happy Easter peeps!! 🐣 He is Risen!
(For more amazing reading on Peters restoration, check out when Jesus returns and asks him three very important questions in John 21)