Don Follis | Easter is the day to listen for your name

Don Follis | Easter is the day to listen for your name

On Easter, I turn to the Gospel of Mark, flipping to Chapter 16. There I read of several women visiting the tomb where Jesus was buried.

They came to anoint his body with special spices. But when they arrived, they suddenly encountered an angel who said: "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place they laid him. But go, tell the disciples and Peter 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

Hearing the angel specifically call out Peter's name always catches me up short. Peter of course was one of the 12 apostles chosen by Jesus. He was one of Jesus' closest confidants. Not long before heading to Jerusalem where he would be crucified, Jesus had asked Peter: "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered instantly: "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God."

That brought an instant response from Jesus: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it."

Talk about a ringing endorsement grounded in a wonderful friendship. In fact, Jesus choose that moment to begin telling his disciples that they will soon head to Jerusalem, where he would be killed and then rise again on the third day.

Whatever Peter thought that meant, he called Jesus aside. Now the one who had called Jesus the Messiah began rebuking him with these words: "Never Lord. This shall never happen to you."

Jesus knows His Kingdom is not of this world. Thus, he responds to Peter's rebuke: "Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

That may seem harsh and out of character for Jesus, especially talking to this close friend, but without knowing it, Peter was speaking for Satan. Peter may have thought he was protecting Jesus, but inadvertently he was being used by Satan to divert Jesus from the cross, the true Messianic purpose of Jesus.

Jesus and his disciples did in fact head to Jerusalem, just as Jesus said. It was just days later, and just hours before being arrested by a detachment of Roman soldiers, when Jesus told his followers they would all desert him. Once again, we find Peter with a quick response, "Even if everyone falls away on account of you, I never will."

Jesus' heartbreaking response rings down through the centuries: "This very night before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And deny him he did. Realizing what he had done, Peter wept bitterly, not even able to tell Jesus he was sorry.

Peter's world came crashing down around him, which makes it all the more striking that Peter was the first name out of the angel's mouth on that first Resurrection day. "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 16:7).

The now risen Lord directly responds to the doubts, fears, and regrets of one of His closest followers. The message was not, "Go tell the disciples and James He is risen." Or, "Go tell the disciples and John He is risen." No, Peter is the one named. "Go tell the disciples and Peter He is risen."

A few weeks back when I was discussing Lent with a man who had sought my counsel, he told me, "I have almost no regrets." While my own life is filled with plenty of happiness, I have lots of regrets and I think most people do. Believe me, Peter had regrets.

But today, Resurrection Sunday, is not the day to fixate on regrets. Today is the day to hear what the angel told the women visiting the tomb, "Go tell the disciples and Peter He is Risen." Try taking out Peter's name and inserting your own. How's that feel?

When I do that, I start smiling and saying the only words that seem remotely appropriate: "He is risen. He is risen indeed."

Don Follis has pastored in Champaign-Urbana for 35 years. He directs retreats and coaches leaders via blog.pastortopastorinitiatives.com. Contact him at donscolumn@gmail.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@donfollis).

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