Easter Off The Page

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)

Get Loud, Get Bold

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“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.” Acts 4:13-22

Part of the enemy’s strategy is to silence believers from speaking and sharing the gospel. Most of us aren’t specifically pastors or teachers, but we all have testimonies to share. Satan would like nothing more than to shut us down.

Peter and John were “uneducated and ordinary” men. They had no degrees or special abilities, only their testimonies and witness from spending time with Jesus. They had been arrested for threatening the status quo. What I find fascinating is that the elders and scribes acknowledged that a miracle had taken place, they just couldn’t bear the idea of their own authority being usurped. They preferred people suffer under their authority than be free under Jesus’ authority. The beautiful thing was, the miracle spoke for itself. There was nothing they could do to change what happened, so they commanded Peter and John to just stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.

Did they really believe these two men would go away that easily? They were so focused on self-preservation, I think they may have thought that would be the end of it. Of course, Peter and John had other ideas:

“And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. They raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them… Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” Acts 4:23-24,29

Whoops. Telling them to be quiet had the exact opposite effect. They went to their closest companions and relayed the entire story. Then, as a united group, they lifted voices up in prayer and praise to Jesus, thanking Him for being above all this craziness and asking Him to grant them even more boldness.

That’s how you deal with opposition my friends!

The disciples had seen so many miraculous things happen, they just took off and never looked back. They had no plan B or anything to fall back on. They healed the sick, cast out demons and spoke the truth boldly when opposed because of the power that had been given to them by Jesus. There was no arguing with the results. People can take it or leave it, but His power manifest is what it’s all about. Many people who cross our paths may never hear our personal testimonies, but they can see what our lives produce – good fruit or bad.

The enemy’s whole tactic is to silence us with threats, lies and fears. Instead of being backed into a corner, we need to have this boldness that Peter and John had. In the original Greek, it means “cheerful courage, clear presentation, not a human quality, a result of having God’s spirit, and authority.” I want all those things!

When fear tells you it isn’t possible, when the unbelief of others confuses you, when the enemy whispers that it’s a lost cause… take up this BOLDNESS, knowing that it is something that comes from God Himself. When the enemy tells you to shut up, ask God to make you LOUDER.

And if you have never read how the story ends, it’s pretty amazing:

“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and the spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31

Let the earth shake. Let the Spirit come down. Let the enemy be silenced and let your God-given courage and authority be made known!