You are on page 1of 5

Peter and Paul: The Rest of the Story

Today, our focus is on Jesus being raised from the dead, and the amazing events that happened on
that Sunday around his resurrection and appearances to others so many years ago. It is a story of
great excitement and hope.

We see Easter Sunday as a day of great celebration, and indeed it is. Imagine if something like this
happened today, we would see an endless series of stories and interviews about the event. We can
imagine an interview with Jesus, where someone would say something like, “Okay Jesus, what’s
next?”

Indeed, this celebration has a totally different ending from what one would expect, after hearing the
cries and demands of ‘crucify him’ on that previous Friday.

However, I think there is more to the story than an empty tomb. The resurrection is important, but
what is the rest of the story?

PETER and PAUL: The Rest of the Story
There is one aspect of the resurrection I want to look at:
“What was the impact on people after that Sunday?”
Each of the events are important –the triumphal entry, the suffering of Christ, the crucifixion, and
the empty tomb. But as important as empty tomb is, more important is what that tomb is a symbol
of.
I want to take a look at how the resurrection impacted the lives of two different people, whose
stories are told in the New Testament.
The stories of the apostles Peter and Paul can help us understand something what is so essential
about the resurrection of Christ. And from there, we can begin to understand how important the
resurrection if for us, and how it should impact us.

A. Paul
Paul’s story is well known. Paul was driven, he was focused. He was going to succeed, not matter
what.

We first encounter Paul in the story of the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr (in Acts 6, ca.
32-35 CE). Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews in Jerusalem,
and accused of blaspheming Moses and the law. Basically, unable to refute his defense, they took
Stephen outside the city walls and carried out the sentence of stoning to death, as commanded in
Deut 17:2–7.

The Romans did not permit the Jewish peoples to execute criminals, but Stephen’s hearers are so
mad that they executed him according to their own Jewish law in defiance of Roman Law.

We meet Paul in this story, which says that Paul was watching their cloaks and clothing, and
shouting encouragement to those who were carrying out the stoning of Stephen.
Out of this event grew an intense persecution of the Jewish-Christians by the Jewish rulers, led by
Paul, who hunted them down and punished them.

Later, Paul would say,
“I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way
to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high
priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their
associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be
punished. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and
when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one
synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was
so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.”

Paul was sent on his way to Damascus with written orders from the Jewish leaders to find, arrest,
and return any Christians they found. But something happened:
Paul underwent an encounter with God that he could never have imagined or anticipated.
That encounter came in the form of a flash of light from Heaven, and Paul was thrown from
his horse. Then there was a “voice from heaven”—God’s voice to be sure, but heard through
the experience of the crucified Jesus, who asks Paul: “why do you persecute me?”

The apostle came to the stunning realization that, in his zeal for truth, he was part of a movement
that was at cross purposes with God. Paul had to wrestle with the unpleasant conclusion that he was
in fact a conspirator in the same violence that put Jesus to death.

Saul’s Conversion
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He
went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he
found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as
prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven
flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do
you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and
you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see
anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So
they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or
drink anything. (Acts 9:1-9)

What difference did the Resurrection of Christ make for Paul?
19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the
disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son
of God.

The rest of the story is well known from the book of Acts. After some time in Antioch and
elsewhere, Paul met with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, where he was appointed as an
apostle and sent to the gentile (non-Jewish) Christians.

Peter’s conversion
We don’t think as often about Peter’s conversion. When we look at Peter, we ask ourselves, “Wasn’t
he a follower of Jesus? Didn’t he just spend more than two years with Christ, watching him teach,
preach, heal and redeem people? Did he not experience a revelation of who Jesus was in Caesarea
Philippi, and soon after that, did he not see the Transfiguration of Christ?” He himself had seen the
empty tomb and the risen Jesus, but what did he do?

He went fishing.
He went back to what he did for a living before Jesus called him: He returned to fishing.

After the arrest of Jesus, Peter tried to stay with Jesus as best he could, and found himself in the
courtyard outside the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. However, he was recognized because of his
Galilean accent, and was accused of being with Jesus. The crowd in Jerusalem had already gathered
and turned against Jesus and it was overwhelming Peter like a tidal wave. Feeling trapped, Peter
sided with the persecutors and denied any association with Jesus.

Thus, we see Peter denying Christ three times on that Friday: As Jesus came out of the house of
Caiaphas, the rooster crowed, and Jesus looks at Peter; the result is devastating. (Luke 22:54-62)
When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction that he would choose the side of
those bent on the destruction of Jesus. Peter began to weep.

Jump ahead to a beach in Galilee, where we see Peter and the others in a boat. This is a strange
story, in some ways.

There is a catch of fish, John recognizes Jesus, and tells Peter that it is Jesus on the shore. Peter
jumps into the lake and swims ashore.

After a meal with the disciples of bread and fish –sound familiar? --Jesus approaches Peter, and asks
him three times: Peter, do you love me? Three times? A coincidence? I think not. And I think Peter
knows this as well.

The result? Jesus tells him: “feed my lambs;” “shepherd my flock,” and “feed my sheep.”

In both stories, their transformation and conversion begins with the painful realization that they
were NOT on the side of the LORD God. The details of how this happened are not necessarily the
point. Paul entered strategically and premeditatedly into violence against the people of God,
claiming to stand with God in his hatred of these followers of an executed revolutionary and
blasphemer.
Peter, almost unconsciously, for all his love and devotion for Jesus, found himself opposed to him as
he stood in the courtyard that day.

Each was awakened to their complicity of rejecting Jesus and his message by Jesus himself, who
revealed this truth in a manner most powerful and transforming.

And so it is that conversion, true conversion, begins with the recognition that in one way or another
we are guilty of rebellion and rejection of Jesus. We are at odds with the world as God wants it and
as he has worked hard to renew.

What then follows is a re-positioning of ourselves literally and metaphorically, in closer proximity to
both Jesus and those who call him LORD. Jesus-followers are those who learn to exit one
community in order to discover themselves anew in another, the community that makes up the
body of the living Christ. A community of people who are transformed and being transformed into
the image of Christ by God’s spirit.

Jesus gives both Peter and Paul a glimpse of what it will cost them to follow Jesus and serve him.
For Paul, the Lord says to a man named Ananias:
Acts 9 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim
my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how
much he must suffer for my name.”

Jesus told Peter, that day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, what his future looked like:
John 21 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where
you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will
dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of
death by which Peter would glorify God.

So what happens when someone has a radical encounter with the Risen Jesus?

1. We are changed by the resurrection of Christ:
Paul tells us in three places that Christians have already been raised with Christ:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:4)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ
Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6–7)

Christians have therefore already been changed by Jesus' resurrection. Jesus really is alive today.
Because of this Christians are also alive in a whole new way of life. The same power that raised
Christ from the dead is living in every true Christian. God wants us not just to believe in Jesus'
resurrection but to be transformed by it and to receive the power we need to live the way we know
we ought.

I think there is an aspect in this that we have to do this daily.

Often times people will take a “Yesterday-I-was-a-sinner-but-today-I’m-saved” story of conversion.
What is the difference between buying a ticket for the Tram or Bus, and stand there waiting
for it to arrive, and buying ticket in April for a flight you take at the beginning of June? How
do you live your life in the meantime? When you are standing on the platform, you see and
act differently that if you had three or four weeks before you go to the airport.

Paul was honest when he said he had to die daily. And even Peter, in the first chapter of Galatians,
fell from Grace by refusing to eat with Gentiles for a time.

Lord Jesus through our lives.

2. It shows us that God is present with us in the person of Jesus Christ, that God keeps his promises
to us.
3. By his suffering and death, Jesus identified himself with those who were enslaved, and took their
pain upon himself.
4. "When resurrection is considered [only] in terms of past and future, it is robbed of its impact on
the present. That is why for most of the time resurrection means little to us. It is remote and
isolated.”
So, how about you?
What is the rest of your story?