The Cross through the Eyes of Four of Jesus' Followers
Jesus' followers responded to His death and resurrection differently. By looking at some of the believers' responses, we can learn a few things about the way that we tend to respond to Jesus today. Let's look at Peter, John, Thomas, and Mary Magdalene at this crucial point in history and see where our own faith is in comparison.
Peter, the Denier
Peter was a member of Jesus' inner circle. He was one of the three disciples Jesus took with him to the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13). He was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-38) when Jesus went to pray before His arrest. Peter was one of Jesus' best friends, and he was quick to jump to Jesus' defense when he was arrested. He even cut off the ear of one of Jesus' accusers (John 18:10, Luke 22:50-51), so it is hard to fathom that hours after he leapt to Jesus' defense, he denied Jesus not once but three times.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Matt 26:31-35 (KJV)
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, thatwhosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto themabout three thousand souls.
Acts 2:14-21, 37-41 (KJV)
Don't be too hard on Peter. He truly feared for his life after Jesus' arrest. Yet, Peter is the man that Jesus would entrust with a very important job just a short time later. On Pentecost, Peter would preach a sermon and 3,000 people would be saved (Acts 2).
How often are we like Peter? We know intellectually that Jesus is Lord and desire to follow Him and live our lives sold out for Him but we still falter. Whether it is fear for ourselves or a fear that the cost of living for Him might be more than we are prepared to pay, we find ourselves slipping away from the path He has set before us. Maybe we don't consciously deny Him, but our actions no longer say that we stand with Him. Isn't it good to know that all we have to do is ask and He will forgive us and that He can even still use us?
John, the Faithful
John was at the Transfiguration and in the garden just like Peter. If Peter was one of the inner circle, John was Jesus' best friend. He has the special distinction of being called the disciple who Jesus loved (John 20:2 and 21:20). John was Jesus' most trusted friend with good reason. He was the only disciple who stuck with Jesus when He was on the cross. Peter had denied Him, the others had deserted Him, but John stood right beside Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene as Jesus gave His life for us. It was John that Jesus entrusted with His own responsibility as the first born, and John took care of Mary from that day forward.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
John 19:25-27 (KJV)
We all want this kind of testimony. We want to be faithful with what God has entrusted to us. We want to one day hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
John was also the last of the twelve original disciples to die and the one Jesus chose to write the book of Revelation (literally unveiling).
Thomas, the Doubter
Thomas deserted after Jesus' arrest. He'd beet there. He'd seen the miracles. He knew that Jesus said he'd be back, but Thomas was a practical man (Luke 24:6-7). Jesus was dead, and dead meant gone. Thomas decided it was time to move on. Thomas wouldn't believe reports that Jesus was alive until he had seen it for himself.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yethave believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
John 20:24-30 (KJV)
Verse 29 is especially important for believers today. Jesus calls us blessed for believing what we haven't seen with our own eyes.
Now when Jesus was risen early the first dayof the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Mark 16:9 (KJV)
Mary, the Grateful
Of all the people Jesus could have chosen to reveal Himself to first post resurrection, Mary Magdalene wasn't on the list of most likely candidates, or she wouldn't have been a few years earlier. We don't know much about Mary's life before Jesus, but we know that she was possessed by 7 demons. Many say she was a prostitute, but the Bible has no reference to it. Truthfully, Mary's past doesn't matter. Her possession wasn't a problem for Jesus. She was right there with John at the crucifixion, and she didn't abandon Jesus after the cross. When she met Jesus that first Resurrection morning, she was coming to prepare His body. She didn't expect to see a risen savior, but she could not abandon the body of the one who'd already delivered her from the demons that had controlled her.
Mary remained faithful because she was so grateful for her salvation. How grateful are we for our salvation? Do we really realize where we would be without Jesus? Mary knew.
What about Us?
We are all guilty of denying and doubting at times. Hopefully, when we fail it isn't on quite as grand a scale as when Peter failed, but we don't always get it right in our Christian walk. We desire to be found faithful and we try to be grateful, but faith grows over time for most of us and gratitude only lasts as long as we remember who we were before He saved us. We must try to remember just how great our savior is and just how lost we would be without Him. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that the wages (the cost) of sin is death. One sin is all it takes to be lost, and lost means death (complete and utter separation from God forever). Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, paid the cost of all our sins on the cross so we could be saved. Let's not forget the cost. Let's not deny our fault or doubt His power. Let's walk faithfully with Jesus, grateful that we are no prisoners to our sins.