This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. The great day of the Christian religion is Easter because it was on Easter that a great miracle occurred: Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of the world was raised from the dead. God the Father set His seal of approval on the atonement of Jesus of Nazareth by raising Him from the dead and giving to Him all power in heaven and on earth.
From that time on Easter is a day of rejoicing because our Savior is alive. He is now in Heaven. He rules the world and we have His promise that not only are we raised to a new life today but someday the graves will go open and the dead in Christ will be raised to be forever on the new earth.
From the dawn of history man lived in terror of death. It was the great unknown, because it was a realm from which no one ever returned. Man feared death because he couldn’t do anything about it and he had no idea what was going to happen to him. But on Easter the light of a new day dawned upon earth. Death will not have the last word. Our Savior is alive and we too will be raised someday!
Now as we go back to that first Easter morning you are surprised by the way it all began. A couple of days before, Jesus had been killed. They had nailed Him to a cross, and there, as He hung on the cross, He bore in body and soul the wrath of God upon sin and He saved others from it.
But as He died on that cross not one of His followers, let alone His enemies, had any idea that He had died to save them and that He would be raised from the dead. When He was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb all His followers believed there would be no continuation of what He had started.
We know this to be so because it says so in the gospel of Luke that we read. These two men on their way to Emmaus said to this stranger whom they had met on the way, “But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened.” In the way they say, “we had all hoped” shows they had stopped hoping because Jesus had died. He died so now everything is lost. They were so convinced about it that they wouldn’t even believe He was raised when the women told them they had seen an angel who told them that Jesus was alive.
They said “moreover, some of our women amazed us. These woman were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find the body and came back saying that they had seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.” They were so convinced that Jesus was dead that they didn’t even accept the fact of Him being alive when they are told by the angels.
The good news that Jesus was alive fell on deaf ears. They just couldn’t believe it was true. Then the stranger (who is the risen Lord but they didn’t realize it) begins to explain to them from the Bible that the Christ was to suffer and die for the sins of others. It was necessary for Jesus to be rejected and be crucified, killed and on the third day be raised.
After He explains all of this and breaks bread with them, their eyes were opened and they realized that it was Jesus who had been talking with them. The one whom they didn’t think was raised had been talking to them and they didn’t know it. But then when they realized Jesus was alive, they didn’t wait any longer but got up and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others that Jesus was raised and is alive. But when they came to the disciples they said, “the Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.”
So the good news of the resurrection had already become known to the other disciples because Jesus had now also appeared to Simon Peter. First He was seen by Mary, then by the other women and after that by Simon Peter. Now the question is, “Why did He appear to Simon?” That’s what we want to consider in more detail now.
The reason is that Simon Peter had fallen into grievous sin when he had denied that he even knew Jesus and now Jesus goes to meet him to tell him that He is alive and He forgives Peter for what he has done. The fact that Jesus goes to meet Peter before He sees any of the other disciples shows His love for sinners, especially Peter.
I think it is probably correct to assume that Peter was close to despair after he had denied Jesus. One must place him or herself in the place of Peter to appreciate that. He was told by Jesus that he would deny Him three times before the rooster would crow. Perhaps we would say before daybreak you will have denied that you even know me.
Of course Peter didn’t believe that at that time. He would not do anything like that; maybe the others might, but not him. He is so convinced of it that when Jesus is taken prisoner he follows at a distance and goes into the house of the high priest where Jesus is being held. He doesn’t even avoid danger; he goes where he should not be and when he is there someone recognizes him and says “surely you are one of His disciples,” but Peter denied it, and that no less than three times.
When he is asked the question for the third time, Peter is still denying that he knows Jesus. At precisely that time the rooster crowed and the Bible says “and the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the words of the Lord, ‘before the rooster crows today you will have denied Me three times.’ And Peter went out and he wept.”
Peter more than any of the others hurt Jesus by what he did. They all ran away and left Him, but only Peter denied Him, yet Peter was warned, but he still did it. As Peter went out and cried he may well have been close to despair for what he had done. How he went through those few days is not recorded, but they must have been agonizing days for him. Jesus was taken from one place to another and eventually taken outside the city and killed, and he, Peter, had denied Him!
We know that the apostle John was at Calvary and saw Him on the cross, but there is no evidence that Peter was there. Maybe he was too ashamed to go there for what he had done. But now on Easter Sunday he is the first one of the disciples to see Jesus. Jesus came to look him up. What was said by Jesus or by Peter or under what circumstances they met is not recorded in the Bible. But I don’t think you are far off the mark when you say there may well have been some tears by Peter when he saw Jesus. He may well have cried when he saw Him.
Maybe the Lord gave him an opportunity to cry alone in His presence and say, “Lord, please forgive me.” Because what more can a sinner say than “I am sorry, Lord” and that is just what the Lord likes to hear. He didn’t come for the righteous. He came to save sinners, and Simon Peter was one of them. Peter probably didn’t realize what he did when he denied Jesus. He was warned, but he seems to have forgotten about it until the rooster crowed and then he remembered and he wept.
But now be honest, how many times does that happen to others, including us? We are all warned about temptations and about the weakness of the flesh and about honesty and fairness and love for the neighbor and a whole lot more, but how often do we fail to do what we know we should have done. You denied the Lord before you realized it, simply because you were not paying attention. You didn’t quite know what you were doing, and then you are close to what Peter was doing.
Peter was at the wrong place and he got scared and said things he didn’t think through, because if he had he might well have changed; he did when he heard that rooster crow and then he cried. But on Easter the Lord goes to see him because Peter needs to be comforted and forgiven.
When they nailed Jesus to the cross, He prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The English translation does not show it, but Jesus prayed this more than once. There is a tense of the verb used that implied a continuous past action. It is called the imperfect tense.
Jesus may well have prayed for the soldiers, who nailed Him to the cross and cast lots for His garments. He may well have prayed for the two thieves who where crucified with Him, for we know they too had mocked Him. He may well have prayed for the chief priests, the scribes and the elders who were mocking Him.
Maybe Jesus’ prayer for His enemies moved this one man next to Him to see in Jesus something more than just a man, for He asked a dying man, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom!” Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Isaiah prophesied that the servant of the Lord would not break a bruised reed, that is, a person bruised and scarred by sin. Now here at Calvary a person like such a bruised reed asked for mercy and Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” On Easter the first one of His disciples Jesus goes to see is Peter, he is like a bruised reed who needs the healing grace of God.
Peter could not undo his past; he could only experience forgiveness from the Lord. For Peter it was a beautiful Easter. He went from despair into the joy of God’s grace. There is nothing so comforting as to know God has forgiven you.
Easter is a day for rejoicing: Jesus the Son of God is alive again. He died and arose to make it possible for God’s people to come out of the grave and live for the Lord. That is not only realized at the resurrection in the last day, but already today we are raised up by His Spirit to a new life. Every person who experienced God’s grace is raised to a new life in Christ.
The Bible teaches us that every person comes into the world with a corrupt nature. We are all inclined to go against everything that God has said in His word. If God says, do good to your neighbor, then we say “I take care of myself, and he can do the same.” If God says to love your enemies and to forgive those who harm you, then we say, “I will get even with him and pay him back.” If God says love then we are ready to hate.
You can make the list as long as you want and you will always find that man will disobey God. It is in his nature to do that. He will stay that way unless the Spirit of God comes into the heart of man and turns it around. Man must be born again of the spirit of God. He needs to be raised from the dead so to speak and he needs to have new life put within him by which he comes to Jesus and accepts Him by faith.
You cannot experience the forgiving grace of God unless you have the spirit of God working in your heart, leading you to Jesus. And every person that lives today and those who are yet to be born, need the regenerating grace of God the Holy Spirit to come to Jesus and say “I am sorry, Lord, for all my sins,“ and then they will experience the joy of Easter because Jesus will turn no one away, and we all need Christ.
There is no one here who can undo his past. It is there! No matter how much you may regret it. But you can get rid of it by coming to Jesus Christ. If you want to justify yourself for what you did or said and you know you were wrong then you will not experience the grace of God. The joy of God’s grace only comes to those who confess and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. God invites you but He won’t force you. The Lord is near and He is calling for you.
Peter sinned. He got scared and he said things he didn’t mean. But he was sorry and on Easter the Lord went to look him up and told him that He heard his denial, but he also saw his tears and for those tears He died. When Peter experienced the forgiving grace of God he became a changed person. Easter was a new beginning for Peter. He was forgiven. He was restored and he had work to do in God’s kingdom.
Listen to what he writes to the Christians some years later. He says, “Clothe yourselves all of you, with humility towards one another for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Peter used to be proud. He used to think he was stronger than the other disciples, but at Easter—when he met Jesus and received forgiveness—he learned to live by grace. He said, “Clothe yourselves, everyone of you, with humility toward one another.”
It is as if he were saying, “Don’t let anyone of you think that he is better than anyone else, because you are not. Remember God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the one who is like a bruised reed. God loves to lift up those who are bowed down because of their sins and make them heirs of the kingdom of heaven.” The good news of Easter is that sinners are received by the Lord and He says I paid for your sins as well.
When Jesus said to His disciples on that Easter evening that it was written that the Christ should suffer and die and on the third day rise from the dead and that forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations, then He Himself had already practiced that with Peter earlier in the day. The disciples understood that, because they went out and preached that gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation. They died doing it but they made it known. Easter was a new beginning for them and for the world.
On Easter Jesus goes and visits one of His disciples who had fallen into sin and He says you are forgiven, “You are still one of mine.” He could say that because Peter was sorry for what he had done. Easter is the day of joy and hope and a new beginning.
For the people of Jerusalem, for those who believed in Jesus it was a day of joy and hope. It was a day of forgiveness for although they had run away from Him, He came to them and said, “Peace be with you.” For Peter it was much more; it was a day of tears of joy. “I am still one of His.” And that is something we all have to learn to accept over and over again. It is by grace that we are saved through faith.
Order of Worship
Call to Worship
Hymn: “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord:’ PsH#624
God’s Greeting: “May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen
Hymn: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” PsH#388
Scripture Reading: John 20:1-10
Hymn: “Low In the Grave Christ Lay” PsH#396
Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-11
Hymn: “A Shout Rings Out, a Joyful Voice” PsH#392:1,2,3
Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Text: verse 34
Sermon: “He Appeared to Simon”
Hymn “The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done” PsH#391
Hymn: “I Serve A Risen Savior” PsH 405
Benediction:``We pray that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
Doxology:“How Great Thou Art” PsH#483