“He is not here; He has risen!” -Luke 24:6
Can you imagine the anguish Peter must have felt? He promised that he would follow Jesus even unto death, yet later that very night he would betray Jesus. Can you imagine the shame that ensued as Peter denied the Messiah while Jesus was being beaten and flogged right in front of Peter? I can see it, tears welling up in Peter’s eyes as he realizes what he had just done. I can see it, as if their eyes met as Jesus is carrying the cross to Calvary. Blood drips from Jesus’ brow while tears probably flowed from Peter’s eyes. Shame. That’s all Peter must have felt is pure shame.
Shame has a way of taking the very best of us and beating it down to our very worst. Peter had been following Jesus for three whole years. He was Jesus’ friend; they laughed and cried, danced and sang, prayed and talked together, and yet he denied Him. Not only did Peter deny Him once, but three times that night as Jesus was beaten and ripped apart.
I wonder how long Peter wept over what he had just done. I wonder if he stood in the back of the crowd on Calvary’s Hill because he could not bear to look into the Savior’s eyes. I wonder how many times he said he wished he could change what he had done. I wonder if he locked himself in a room because he found himself in the tombs of despair. I wonder how that Saturday must have felt. I wonder.
As I was reading Luke 24, it stirred something within me. I think it’s because I can relate to Peter. I can relate to shame. Maybe you can too? Shame is the tomb we bury ourselves within. It is a dark place with not much hope and no grace. It is a place where the past constantly whispers regret in our ears. Maybe you know this tomb. Maybe you’re in this tomb. But the story doesn’t end in the tomb for Jesus, and it doesn’t have to end in the tomb for you either.
You see, on the third day, the women went to the tomb to take spices that they had prepared out of custom. As they approached the tomb, they could see that the stone had been moved. As Mary ran into the tomb, she found that all that was left was the burial linens. In her confusion, she looked up to see two glowing angels amongst them. One of the angels said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). The women ran back to tell the others what they had heard and what they had seen. The tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive.
When the women went back to tell of what they just experienced, it was Peter who ran to the tomb to see it for himself. It was as if he was hoping that he might have one more minute with Jesus. It was as if he was hoping he might have one more chance to make things right. It was as if he was hoping that Jesus might really be alive. And so Peter ran. I love what it says: “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke 24:12). Can you imagine the hope that filled Peter? This wasn’t the end. Peter knew that his story didn’t have to end in the tombs. Later, Jesus would appear to Peter. I would imagine that Peter weeped and wailed as he clung to the risen Savior. Jesus would once again look Peter eye to eye, but this time there would be no denial; there would be grace. Jesus would ask three times: “Peter, do you love me?” Do you see the irony? Peter would deny Jesus three times and later Jesus would redeem it by asking if Peter loved Him three times. There is grace in the eyes of Jesus. Oh weary one full of shame, would you look up into the merciful eyes of Jesus today. He has not come to condemn you; He has come to save you. Whether you have known Jesus for years or never even heard His name until now, this resurrection is still for you. You have not gone too far that Jesus can’t reach you. You have not sinned too much that Jesus can’t save you. You have not hid too deep that Jesus can’t find you. He sees you, sin and all, and calls you beloved.
The story doesn’t have to end in the tombs. It didn’t for Jesus, and it doesn’t for you. Run to the tomb. Run. Run with all the strength you have left. Run. Run with every ounce of hope left in your bones. Run. The tomb indeed is empty. Jesus is alive. Come out of the tombs of shame and despair; He is calling you into life. The story isn’t over. Go and see the empty tomb. Marvel at the wonderful, merciful Savior. Come and see His nail pieced hands, and watch as He trades shame for grace. Alive! Alive! Indeed, Jesus is alive!