Mark 16:1-7
John 21:1-17

In the various accounts of the resurrection of Jesus that appear in the four gospels, I believe the most personal, the most touching, the most poignant words can be found in the first gospel we read, the gospel of Mark. The phrase is so short that we easily gloss over it without realizing the tremendous significance that it had on that first glorious Easter morning . . . as well as this day.

I’ll read the verse again, and emphasize the little phrase of which I speak:

but the angel said, ‘Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.’

See how easily those two words gets lost in the holiness of the angel as he speaks, in the initial incredibility and amazement of the empty tomb, in the shadow of the One who has been raised from the dead.

‘Now go and tell His disciples; including Peter!’ Including Peter? Why Peter? Why not John or James or Andrew or one of the others? Why does Peter get special mention?

Let’s quickly recall that 60 hours earlier, it was Peter who said to Jesus, ‘Jesus, I am ready to die with you’ (Luke 22:33). But a couple hours later, when it looked as if he might have to make good on that promise, he denied, with loud cursing, he even knew the name of Jesus (Luke 22:60).

All four gospel writers record the story of Peter’s denial and conclude it by saying that Peter began to weep bitterly. How long he wept is open to speculation. Some suggest that he was still crying when Mary came and made him aware that Jesus had been raised. Whether or not he was still weeping doesn’t really matter, for we know he was still suffering tremendous feelings of guilt and shame.

And that’s why this phrase means so much.

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there when Mary showed up with that message?
“Andrew, James, John, Bartholomew, Philip, Thomas, I have the most wonderful news . . . Jesus is no longer in the tomb; He has risen just as He said He would . . . Jesus is alive!
And oh by the way Peter, I almost forgot, the angel specifically mentioned that I should tell you.”

In other words, tell Peter that his failure doesn’t make him a flop. Tell him that I am not letting him off the hook of serving me that easy.

And a few days later, we have this wonderful encounter on the shore where Jesus erases Peter’s threefold denial with a threefold re-commissioning:
“Peter, do you love Me more than these?”
Three times, Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord you know I love you.”
And three times, Jesus re-commissions the one he called to be a fisher of men
“Feed My lambs, take care of My sheep, feed My sheep.”

Louisa Fletcher wrote a little poem called The Land of Beginning Again.

I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches,
And all of our poor selfish grief,
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never put on again. 1

The Land of Beginning Again; this little phrase, ‘including Peter’ assures us that there is such a place.

What a grace-filled addition! Not only for Peter, but for any professing Christian who has ever denied the Lord Jesus in any way shape or form and who feels as though their denial disqualifies them from serving Christ.

One of the most precious things about Jesus is the way in which He trusts us on our field of defeat.

Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a light bulb and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You’ve probably guessed what happened by now; the poor kid dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. And he gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That’s true forgiveness. 2

Time and again we drop the ball. We fail. We mess things up. We feel like such a failure.
I can’t tell you how many times I have failed God’s people; let them down in some way or another. And when I fail God’s people, I feel I have failed God Himself. If I didn’t believe in The Land of Beginning Again I wouldn’t be standing here today.

As was with Peter, so it is with us. Jesus is always there in the midst of our failures. He places a hand on our shoulder and says, “Get up . . . get back in there. Don’t quit . . . I’m with you . . . I forgive you.”

That’s difficult for some of us to accept because some of us think we don’t deserve to be forgiven. We have denied Christ in thought, word, or some deed. And we have come to feel as though our denial disqualifies us from not only serving Him but also from receiving His grace in the form of forgiveness and/or the sacrament of holy communion.

But this text tells us that Jesus is always far more interested in comforting the sinner than He is in punishing the sin.

In the 14th century, Robert Bruce of Scotland was leading his men in a battle to gain independence from England. Near the end of the conflict, the English wanted to capture Bruce to keep him from the Scottish crown. So they put his own bloodhounds on his trail.

When the bloodhounds got close, Bruce could hear their baying. His attendant said, “We are done for. They are on your trail, and they will reveal your hiding place.” Bruce replied, “It’ll be all right.” Then he headed for a stream that flowed through the forest.

He plunged in and waded upstream a short distance. When he came out on the other bank, he was in the depths of the forest. Within minutes, the hounds, tracing their master’s steps, came to the bank. They went no farther. The English soldiers urged them on, but the trail was broken. The stream had carried the scent away. A short time later, the crown of Scotland rested on the head of Robert Bruce. 3

The memory of our sins, prodded on by Satan, can be like those baying dogs. BUT A STREAM FLOWS RED WITH THE BLOOD OF GOD’S OWN SON! And when we pass through that stream even the scent of sin is carried away. By grace, through faith, we are safe on the other side and take up residence in the Land of Beginning Again. No sin-hound can touch us! The trail is broken by the precious blood of Christ.

That’s what God in Christ has done for us? A fresh start . . . a new beginning.

One of the first Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy land and record her experiences was a woman named Egeria. Little is known about her other than she traveled from northwest Spain in 381 AD and spent three years exploring the Holy Land. On her visit to Galilee, she visited a small church that had been built on a site known as the Place of the Coals because it was there Jesus built the charcoal fire John speaks of. This was an important destination for Egeria because it recalled a moment in time that transformed one man’s life and his story had helped her overcome her own failures. As lovely as this little church building is, it is overshadowed by the statues outside adjacent to the shoreline; a life-size portrayal of Peter, who had now met His Lord on the beach and towering over Peter stands Jesus, both forgiving and re-commissioning this great man of the faith. Christians who still visit this site sense what Egeria sensed: something momentous transpired there and it speaks not only of Peter . . . but of us as well.

The Land of Beginning Again was discovered on that first Easter morning by a man who desperately wanted to live there. And it continues to be discovered today by people searching for the forgiveness that only Christ offers.

You see, my friends, the amazing news is that had Jesus remained in the tomb, Peter’s denial would have remained an albatross around his neck . . . and ours . . . forever. But as Jesus left the tomb alive, God was authenticating the work of Christ in providing the forgiveness of sin through His death on the cross; the very forgiveness that Peter . . . and we so desperately crave. Because Jesus is alive, Peter, and you and I receive another chance. Peter, as well as you and I, can receive the Lord’s forgiveness and grace and begin to dwell in the Land of Beginning Again.

1 Fletcher, Louisa. The Land of Beginning Again. [Charleston, South Carolina, Nabu Press, © 2011.

2 Newton, James. Uncommon Friends –

3 Lutzer, Erwin, Putting Your Past Behind You. [San Bernardino, CA.; Here’s Life Publishers, © 1990] page 42.