Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “He Appeared to Peter” based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
He appeared to Peter. It’s a phrase of just four words. It seems innocent and innocuous enough to just pass over when you read or hear them in Paul’s exposition on the gospel message. Clearly Paul, in sharing what was of primary importance to the Corinthians, wanted to make sure that they understood how that gospel message didn’t stop simply with Jesus’ death.
Yes, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s explanation of the gospel goes in great detail to declare that, while Jesus did indeed die, he did not stay dead. In fact, in accordance with the prophecies of Scripture and witnessed by hundreds of people, including Paul, himself, Jesus also rose from the dead.
He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and…he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers…then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.
Now, from the Gospel accounts, like the one from Luke that you heard earlier today, the first people to whom Jesus appeared were the women who went to the tomb. But, Paul doesn’t even mention them. Instead, the first person he mentions is Peter. He appeared to Peter. That phrase of four little words. Why did Paul include them? What was so special about Peter?
Well, you remember Peter, right? He walked on water—well, sort of. He got a little scared and then began to sink into the water. Peter defended Jesus when they came to arrest him. He pulled out his sword and lopped off another man’s ear. But, then, after just promising to Jesus, in front of all of the disciples at the Last Supper, that he would never forsake Jesus and that he would even die for Jesus, Peter stood, warming his hands by the fire, and denied even knowing who Jesus was before the rooster’s crow.
As he watched Jesus, then, die on the cross the next day and as he gazed from a distance while Jesus’ lifeless body was placed into a tomb, Peter must have been wracked with guilt. He must have been so sad and heartbroken at his inability to help Jesus when it seemed like Jesus needed him the most. That sin must have been so overwhelming.
How could Peter ever live this down? Imagine the heartache, the sadness in his mind. What could be done to get Peter’s attention? What could be done to ease his pain?
He appeared to Peter.
Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that his sins were forgiven. Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that He still loved him and there was no need to worry. Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that his denials were forgotten. Jesus appeared to Peter to prove to him that the death he had been preaching about happened, and so did the once for all time payment for the sins of the world. Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that God accepted the payment.
But Jesus didn’t just appear to Peter. He appeared, “…then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…”
And he didn’t stop there. Jesus continues to appear to his followers, even today. Jesus appears to you. He stands in front of you week after week in front of that altar and behind this ambo. He appears to you in flesh and blood in your hand and in your mouth. He shows to you his body, given into death, and his blood, poured out for you, for your forgiveness.
He appears to you for the same reason he appeared to Peter. Like little Simon Peters, you, too, have walked and talked with your God, through the power of his Word, and watched him as he cured the sick, healed the lame, and made the blind to see. You, too, have heard him preach about the prodigal and the Samaritan, tax collectors and Pharisees, prostitutes and the seed of faith he planted in your hearts.
And, yet, like Peter, haven’t there been times where you, too, have allowed the sinful nature inside of you to doubt the God in which you have believed—wondering about some of the promises he made or confused about the difficulties he allows in your lives? While you may be ready to make your promises to Jesus to serve him with every ounce of your being or to take up a metaphorical sword in his defense, haven’t you had your fair share of times where you’d rather warm your hands by the fire to fit in with the crowd than put your faith on display?
Brothers and sisters, that is why Jesus appears to you. He appears to you to forgive you for the times you have doubted and for all of your sins. He has forgotten them. He appears to you to give you assurance that you are holy and blameless in the eyes of your God. Your Savior appears to you as proof of his resurrection. He is the receipt, the “paid in full” stamp put on your record of sins to let you know that the victory he won over sin, death, and the Devil has been shared with you.
Still have doubt? Still have worry? Bury it with Christ in your baptism. Bury it deep in the tomb where your sin was laid right next Him. Leave it there as you rise up in your resurrection alongside your Savior. Because he rose, you rise, too.
The next time you think your sin so great that Jesus could never forgive you or when the doubts and fears of this world begin to overcome and overwhelm you, remember, Jesus appeared to Peter. Jesus appeared to the man who had nothing special about him. Jesus appeared to the man who had shown mistrust, shown ignorance, and shown pride. Remember, Jesus appeared to Peter to prove to him his share in Salvation. Remember, Jesus appears to you to prove to you the same. Christ is risen! Amen.