May 2, 2011
1 Corinthians 15:5-6, Page 1800
“and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;”
The Post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus
“He Appeared to Cephas”
You may recall the story of Jesus telling Simon Peter that his name would be called Cephas, which means rock (John 1:42, page 1655). When we read about the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus, Peter receives special attention. In the four Gospels, we do not have a clear record of the details of that first meeting between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection. One detail of this meeting we find in 1 Corinthians 15:5, which indicates that Jesus appeared to Peter before Jesus appeared to the twelve: “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” It seems from the comment of the travelers on the Damascus road who walked with Jesus that Jesus had already appeared to Peter before the travelers walked with Jesus (Luke 24:34, page 1652), and before the eleven and others were gathered together in Jerusalem during the night of Resurrection Sunday or early the next day (Luke 24:29, Luke 24:33, page 1652). Why did Peter receive such special attention from Jesus?
Sift You Like Wheat. Just after the final Passover Jesus celebrated with His Disciples on earth, the disciples began to dispute among themselves who was the greatest (Luke 22:24-27, page 1645). Jesus ended the controversy by teaching them about servanthood and leadership. He then told them that they had stood by Him during His trials (Luke 22:28, page 1645). He also promised that they would eat and drink with Him in His kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Things seem wonderful, until Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31, page 1645). Because many of us are not farmers, we do not know that the sifting of wheat occurs near the end of the harvest. The farmer takes his wheat and puts it through a sieve, to separate rocks and debris from the wheat kernels which fall to the ground. Earlier in the process, the wheat would be removed from the chaff by winnowing, which is not in view here. The disciples had been chosen by Christ directly, and in that sense he had separated the wheat from the chaff of the crowds. Jesus meant that Satan was now going to put Simon Peter, Cephas, to such a test it would rock him to his core. Remember, however, that God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear, and even then, He always provides a way of escape from the temptation so that we never have to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13, page 1793).
I Have Prayed for You. In Luke 22:32, page 1646, we have a perfect example of the intercessory prayer ministry of Jesus Christ. Before Satan could sift Peter, Jesus knew all about it and prayed to the Father for Peter. Notice that God did not withhold the sifting from Peter, but rather allowed the sifting and Jesus prayed for Peter. We can always count upon Jesus interceding for us too as we face temptation. He stands before God, and acts as our advocate, particularly when we sin (1 John 2:1-2, page 1904). Notice too that Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. Jesus understood that Peter would actually fail the test, and deny Jesus three times that same night before the rooster crowed (Luke 22:34, page 1646).
Strengthen Your Brothers. Jesus had a special message for Peter. Jesus essentially told Peter: “I have warned you that you will be sifted, and that you will deny Me three times tonight. I also know that you will turn again to Me. After you turn to Me, then strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32, page 1646). Jesus did not disqualify Peter from serving Him or sitting on a throne because Peter denied Jesus and sinned terribly against God. Jesus forgives sins. What Satan meant for evil in sifting Peter, Jesus used ultimately to strengthen Peter and the other disciples. Peter would know that night all about the depths of denial, and Jesus Himself would show Peter His love. Jesus loves to use men who overcome their sin by turning back to Him. All of us in one way or another will turn away from Jesus during our lifetimes, but we should always remember that Jesus will still use people who turn back to Him and follow Him. We can strengthen our brothers in Christ when we do not fall and stay down. We must remember that when Peter fell, he was not hurled headlong, because the LORD Jesus is the One who never let go of His hand (Psalms 37:24, page 890; Proverbs 24:16, page 1036; Psalm 40:12, page 894; 1 John 1:8-10, page 1904).
Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled. In John 13:37-38, page 1684, we read about Jesus telling Peter that he really would deny him three times before the rooster crowed, despite Peter’s protests that he would not and would even lay down his life for Jesus. Peter went out and wept bitterly at the sad news (Matthew 26:75, page 1553). Jesus then continued with these tremendous words of encouragement for Peter and all the disciples: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1, page 1684). After telling Peter some of the worst news of Peter’s life about denying Christ, Jesus also comforted Peter and all the disciples. Jesus never intended that Peter’s denials to be the end of Peter’s ministry, but merely one step in a lengthy journey of serving Christ around the world. We should take courage from Jesus and the story of Peter. Jesus loved Peter so much that Jesus singled out Peter for a special message of hope after denial (Mark 16:7, page 1592).
So we begin to learn about the Post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus.
● Jesus had a special post-resurrection message for Peter who had denied him three times. Jesus wanted Peter in particular to know that Jesus still loved Peter, and that Jesus looked forward to seeing him in person.
● Jesus used His post-resurrection appearances to bring special comfort and courage to His disciples. He not only removed their doubts, but healed very recent wounds of fear and denial in Peter.
● Jesus seeks to comfort all of us, whenever we fall. He will always be holding our hands, and we will not be hurled headlong. Jesus loves us every day of our lives, no matter what.
Application for Today
Today I want dwell upon the depths of the love of Jesus for me. I too have had my doubts and denials in my heart. I have not always honored Jesus with my words. In my own way, I too have denied Jesus. I thank Jesus that He still loves me. He loves to spend time with me doing everything I do to His glory. He never leaves me nor forsakes me, because He always remains faithful. Can you hear Jesus calling out to you in love today?