Peter failed in spectacular fashion. He bragged he would stand with Jesus even if everyone else fled. He fell asleep in the Garden. He assaulted the servant of the High Priest. Though he was warned about it in advance, he went ahead and denied Christ three times.
Here’s a question to everyone who has ever failed: Why did Jesus put the man’s severed ear back on? (Luke 22:51). We know Peter had taken a sword and had cut it off. We know why. We can also guess that Jesus healed Malchus’ ear out of compassion. But there is something way deeper going on here. What does that have to do with anyone who ever failed? Everything.
The day after Jesus died wouldn’t have hurt Peter so much if Peter didn’t love Jesus so much. That he had abandoned Christ began to torment him. It could have devastated him for the rest of his life. But right at this point, he doesn’t believe there is a rest of his life.
The day after Jesus died is Peter’s day to hide like a hunted animal. A day to let it sink in that there is nothing left to live for. He was a hair’s breadth away from the fate of Judas Iscariot. Worst of all, he lost his destiny.
Destiny is a mysterious thing. The same force that can inspire a man to greatness can—in his failure—torture him. The pain level depends on the size of the destiny. In the case of Peter, it was massive.
Peter was minding his own business when Jesus interrupted his whole life. Fishing all night, Peter had caught nothing. His hands are red and sore from handling the heavy nets. Every muscle aches. He has nothing to show for a brutal night at sea.
The strange Teacher says, “Let your nets down again for a catch.” Peter halfheartedly does as he is asked. The enormous catch terrifies him. He begs Jesus to keep his distance, “I am a sinful man.”
That’s when he heard the words about his destiny. “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men.” Then, once more, the day after Jesus has died, Peter is just a fisherman again. It sticks in his throat to say it.
They say that regret is the cancer of life—if so, on this terrible day, Peter is terminal. He could have prayed Psalm 69: 1 “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. 4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me…”
“I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing” simply means that in the quicksand of despair, nothing that used to help you snap out of it works now. All of your comfort is gone. There is nothing to grab to save you. You will sink until you vanish.
Now it’s dawn on Sunday. Peter can’t know that at that moment, an angel is talking about him. Mark 16: 7 “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.” The angel added the words “and Peter.” Why? Because God knew Peter would have disqualified himself if the invitation was “for disciples only.” Wouldn’t you love to have seen Peter’s face when they told him the angel’s message?
So why did Jesus put the ear back on? He knew Peter’s destiny, and Peter couldn’t be in prison on the day of Pentecost. Jesus knew his destiny. He knows yours.
One of the greatest cruelties—if not the greatest cruelty in history—was done to Mary Magdalene. She was once sold on the streets. She knew the special insanity of demon possession. She knew the yawning blackness of total despair.
Jesus rescued her. Jesus cast out 7 vicious devils—devils she thought would never leave. Once deemed human garbage she is now redeemed, and rooted into a family of indescribable love. Things would never be the same. Her nights of remorse, her days of futility, her shame, her emptiness were all distant memories.
For 3 years, she lived a life she could have never imagined. Crisscrossing Judea, hanging on Jesus’ every word, weeping gloriously over every miracle. Each morning she awakened a more powerful and joyous woman of God! She thought that this would go on forever.
People use the phrase “nothing could be worse…” They use it before describing something unimaginably terrible. I will use it this way: Nothing could be worse than to be in hell, and then taste heaven, only to return to hell.
Then on that fateful day it all went horribly, horribly wrong. How could the one who called the dead back to life, and silenced a storm at sea be arrested? How could one who gave words of exquisite beauty, love and wisdom, be tortured and killed. No one wanted to save Jesus more than Mary. No one felt more horror and helplessness than she.
That night, profound hope had given way to even deeper bitterness and disappointment. If only I had never met him. If only he had left me to die in the streets. She slept only after exhaustion became more powerful than sorrow. Too wounded to go on living. Maybe too tired to commit suicide.
Mary matters to me today because her testimony is the best one I can think of on this Good Friday in such a dark time. Mary’s miracle is the one America needs now! Here’s why…
When the first shafts of Sunday morning light stirred her awake, she dreaded it. If ever a heart was broken beyond repair—if ever a soul would rage against the approach of hope—if ever a woman just wanted to go back to sleep and never wake up, it was Mary.
That is why she was shocked when she felt an odd energy. She soon felt an even stranger impulse… to go to the grave of Jesus? How could she return to the only spot on earth that could open her wound wider?
What overruled her despair? What fuel is driving her so completely against her common sense and her broken heart? Paul answers that emphatically! “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”- Romans 8:11
Do you know any therapist capable of rebuilding the ashes and rubble in her soul? Can any drug, any teaching, any relationship, reassemble her heart the way this gentle but powerful influence could?
We all know about the power of the resurrection. It was the greatest display of power the universe has ever known; even greater than the alleged “big bang” that birthed the universe. It sent shock waves through the principalities and powers of darkness. It shattered hell and stripped Satan of the keys of death. Jesus set the captives free in the bowels of the earth and “led captivity captive.”
But the first burst of resurrection power was much gentler. She was the first human to feel the power of the resurrection. Her eyes which were red and sore from sobbing are now refreshed and clear. Her arms which hung limp from heartsick lethargy were now responsive, strong, and full of purpose. She sat up and found hope pumping through her veins. She did not know why!
A notion gently but firmly seizes her. She was to go to the grave. She got going! Washing up, brushing her hair, and quickly getting dressed; all the while the expectancy of some indescribable something is building in her soul. Before she knows it she is out the door and charging toward her worst fear. Only she is not afraid.
She found the tomb vacant. She turned and saw Him whom her soul loved. Many awesome things happened that Easter but none more wonderful than Mary reunited with her Savior.
In the genetically altered, politically charged, drug addicted, violent purgatory that is America, Mary Magdalene stands as a poignant figure. She is the best testimony I can think of for our national dreams that have gone up in smoke. Our culture has wearied itself with perversion…hunted everything natural and replaced it with a disfigured counterfeit… it has marched, protested, boycotted the very color and life out of everything—everything is a cause to take offense.
What happened to Mary is why there is nothing better than the Gospel. America! This is what you need!
Mark 16:9, “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” HE APPEARED FIRST TO HER! He never forgot her. He knew she was suffering the most so He healed this precious soul first!