Peter's Reaction to the Death of Jesus
The events that took place on the eve of Passover were obviously unexpected and very troubling to all who knew Jesus, especially Peter. One can only imagine what thoughts plagued their minds as the sun set and Passover observance began.
Jesus had told them the night before, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Jesus was troubled and sad that evening because he knew what was coming, the disciples did not! They did not know what Jesus meant when he talked about Passover finding fulfillment in the kingdom of God.
It was about three in the afternoon when Jesus cried out from the cross the next day and breathed his last. It occurred about the time when Passover lambs were traditionally slaughtered in the Temple. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slain to give life to a dying world as the ultimate fulfillment of Passover. The death and resurrection of Jesus were essential for the rest of us to have access to the kingdom of God.
The scriptures don’t specifically say, but I wonder if the disciples regrouped after Jesus death to observe Passover in the same room that Peter and John had previously prepared according to Jesus’ instructions. It would have been the place where they had enjoyed their last supper with Jesus and where he said he had eagerly desired to eat the Passover with them? Despite all the trauma, Passover would have been an essential observance of their Jewish faith and would not have been skipped.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hurried to retrieve the body of Jesus from the cross and prepare it for quick burial before sunset, the beginning of Passover Sabbath. Joseph and Nicodemus would not be able to participate in the Passover celebration, Jewish law forbade it because they had become unclean, having handled a corpse. They would, however, cease from labor in observance of the Sabbath. They would also have observed the regular 7th day Sabbath that followed.
The women who watched as Jesus died on the cross and who observed Joseph and Nicodemus preparing him for burial also observed the Passover Sabbath and the regular Sabbath that followed it. But early on Sunday morning as the Sabbath ended, they went to the tomb prepared to better prepare the body of Jesus with additional spices. They knew that Joseph and Nicodemus had worked in haste. They were prepared to finish the burial prep.
According to the Gospel of Mark the women found the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The young man said, “He is risen! He is not here.” The young man also said, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee.”
I find it interesting that the women were told to tell the disciples and Peter. Wasn’t Peter one of the disciples? Was it possible that Peter, traumatized by his failure to stand by Jesus to death, as he had boasted, may have at least temporarily, felt unworthy of being called a disciple? Does the scripture hint here that Peter might have needed special handling after the death of Jesus?
The Gospel of Luke says, “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.” Luke says that they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. He says that Peter got up and ran to the tomb! According to Luke, Peter saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Peter, still traumatized by the arrest, sentencing, and execution of Jesus, the Christ the Son of the Living God, did not yet know what to think. He had expected Jesus to bring deliverance to Israel, but recent events made it seem that Jesus had failed him just as much as he had failed Jesus.
The Gospel of John also tells us that Peter reacted a little differently than John when confronted with news and evidence of the resurrection of Christ. John went in, saw, and believed. Peter, it seems, observed the evidence but “still did not understand."
John 20:1-10 Good News Bible Text
1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance.
2 She went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
3 Then Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb.
4 The two of them were running, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first.
5 He bent over and saw the linen cloths, but he did not go in.
6 Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there
7 and the cloth which had been around Jesus' head. It was not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death.)
10 Then the disciples went back home.
John 20:1-10 Good News Bible Video
Jesus First Resurrection Appearance
Later, on the evening of that same first day of the week, Jesus appeared to the disciples. They were together behind locked doors, possibly in the same room where they had observed Passover. Jesus showed them his hands and his side. He said, “Peace be with you!” He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. He told them he was sending them as the Father had sent him. Thomas is noted as missing. Peter is not mentioned.
John 20:19-23 Good News Bible Text
19 It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said.
20 After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you."
22 Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive people's sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven
A Resurrection Appearance One Week Later
A week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again under similar circumstances. It seems this was for the benefit of Thomas who had not seen him the first time. Again, Peter was not mentioned.
John 20:24-28 Good News Bible Text
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!"
28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
A Third Resurrection Appearance
In John 21 Jesus appeared to his disciples a third time. This time he met them by the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias). In this more extended story an appearance of Jesus after resurrection, Peter is specifically mentioned, as is Thomas, and five other disciples. We are not told how long after the resurrection of Jesus it was that this appearance took place. We know only that it had to be more than a week since the first day of resurrection.
At his first appearance, Jesus said he was sending them just as the Father had sent him. Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” Do you notice any connection or sense of purpose toward ministry among the seven?
Peter, it seems, might have been bored, or maybe he was still struggling with his thoughts, trying to cope with the fact that his Christ, the Son of the Living God, did not come to lead an insurrection against the Romans. Jesus came to suffer and to die! Peter’s hopes in Jesus had been quashed that night. Jesus' purpose did not meet Peter's expectations. When Peter announced “I am going fishing,” the others appear to have joined him enthusiastically. By morning, their enthusiasm had to be waning. They had fished all night and not caught a thing.
John 21:1-14 Good News Bible Text
1 After this, Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias. This is how it happened.
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael (the one from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of Jesus were all together.
3 Simon Peter said to the others, "I am going fishing." "We will come with you," they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing.
4 As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water's edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Then he asked them, "Young men, haven't you caught anything?" "Not a thing," they answered.
6 He said to them, "Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some." So they threw the net out and could not pull it back in, because they had caught so many fish.
7 The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken his clothes off ) and jumped into the water.
8 The other disciples came to shore in the boat, pulling the net full of fish. They were not very far from land, about a hundred yards away.
9 When they stepped ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it and some bread.
10 Then Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
11 Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three in all; even though there were so many, still the net did not tear.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and eat." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord.
13 So Jesus went over, took the bread, and gave it to them; he did the same with the fish.
14 This, then, was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from death.
John 21:1-14 Good News Bible Video
Jesus and the Disciples Fishing
These seven disciples, not having clear direction since their master and teacher had been taken from them, went back to what they knew best. However, this first night back fishing could not have been extremely rewarding.
Unknown to the disciples, Jesus was on shore preparing breakfast. Jesus already knew the extent of their fishing success and he was prepared. He called from shore and offered advice. Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side.
In Luke chapter 5 Jesus had been teaching from Simon’s boat all day and then told Simon and his partners to cast out and let down their nets for a catch. The partners had fished all that night and caught nothing, but at Jesus command they did as he said and caught too many fish for their nets.
This new fishing net incident seems to have triggered a memory for John. It caused him to recognize that the man on shore was Jesus.
Notice Peter’s reaction. He immediately threw some clothes on, jumped in the water, and swam about a hundred yards to shore. Peter was obviously excited to see Jesus! The others were left to pull the net full of fish to shore in the boat.
Jesus was already cooking fish on a fire. When Jesus said to bring some of the fish they had just caught, it was Peter who hurried back aboard the boat to drag the net full of 153 fish ashore. Peter seems to have rapidly moved from boredom and despondency to elation and joy. They all shared a meal together.
John 21:15-19 Good News Bible Text
15 After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Take care of my lambs."
16 A second time Jesus said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Take care of my sheep."
17 A third time Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" and so he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!" Jesus said to him, "Take care of my sheep.
18 I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you up and take you where you don't want to go."
19 (In saying this, Jesus was indicating the way in which Peter would die and bring glory to God.) Then Jesus said to him, "Follow me!"
John 21:15-19 Good News Bible Video
It was after the meal that Jesus sought a separate conversation with Peter. I believe Jesus knew that there was need for emotional and mental healing here.
Remember how Peter had boasted at the last supper that he would never deny Jesus, that he was so loyal he would follow Jesus to death, even if all the others left. That same night Peter had denied knowing Jesus and he wept bitterly after the rooster crowed near dawn.
Jesus asks Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?" Notice that here Jesus did not use the nickname he had given Simon, Peter, meaning Rock. Simon Peter had not felt much like a Rock since that night. This first question from Jesus reminds Peter of that.
According to Luke 22:32 Jesus said, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers." Jesus knew Peter’s faith would be tested and that he would go through denial, but he also knew that Peter would come back to him as a stronger person. A person with a mission to strengthen his brothers.
Jesus recognized the trauma that Peter had experienced and he knew what Peter needed to be able to say. He asked Peter the same basic question three times, worded slightly different each time with only slightly different responses from him. Peter had denied Christ three times. Now, in this conversation, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his commitment in a far less boastful way than before. There is healing here! If Peter had been suffering some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Jesus was there help to heal the hurt via his counsel by the Lake.