Mark wasn’t there. He did not hear firsthand the words of the Lord. He did not experience personally the confusion of the disciples as they listened to the parables of Jesus. He certainly was not present to observe the interplay between the disciples, watching how they responded to each other or to Jesus. So, where did he get his information? Church history tells us that his source was the Apostle Peter. Given that likelihood, how does Peter portray himself to Mark? What is the legacy Peter wishes to leave behind as his own personal story is interwoven with the Gospel story?
There is so much made about one’s legacy. We hear it from athletes and presidents. Christian leaders at times talk about the legacy they hope to leave or those in their inner circle might sometimes maneuver in order to help leave a lasting legacy. What was the legacy that the Apostle Peter wanted to leave behind? When I think about Peter and the legacy he wanted to impart, my mind goes to the words he wrote in his first epistle at the very beginning: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those words, in my mind, stand in stark contrast to the portrait we have of Peter as a young man. And these words written as an elderly man also fit the season of Easter upon which we have now embarked (do you know that Easter is not simply a day but a season within the church calendar?).
My word this year for Easter Sunday was “new” or “newness.” The resurrection means that newness is possible anywhere, anyplace and in any person. The enemy known as death (and think separation here that leads to soul death as much as physical death) that threatens to destroy and defeat us has been overcome by the crucifixion and the resurrection. Peter speaks about newness in his "legacy” words of 1 Peter 1. He himself was given a “do-over” by his Savior. He was given a new chance. At the end of his life he was now talking about mercy and second chances and living hope, and if there was a legacy to be left, it was this. But it was not always so. His story, as recounted by Mark and his Gospel, is different. And this Gospel account, via the life of Peter, reminds us that newness is a process, a rather long, life-long process. It takes faith to believe it is happening in us, in others and all around us, but the resurrection reminds us that it is indeed happening. It will takes eyes and ears of faith to recognize.
Through Mark, Peter says to us, “let me let you in on my life so that your ultimate focus will be rightly placed": Praise be to the God and Father of Jesus. It is his great mercy that matters. It is his mercy that creates the opportunity for newness. I was, says Peter, the guy who got it right in professing Jesus as the Messiah. But then so quickly I got it wrong by interfering with an eternal plan requiring Jesus’s death. I was the same guy who was convinced I would and could remain loyal to Jesus despite the weakness of the others, even bragging to Jesus, but then I couldn’t and I didn’t, buckling under fear that fateful night. And I was the guy who still thought God’s ultimate plan wasl going to transpire based on the world’s idea of power, revealed by my wielding of a sword in the garden in front of Jesus and others. So much of who I was developed out of a self-confidence that I would later discover is NOT the kingdom way. Let me tell you what the kingdom way is. Let me tell you what the legacy is I wish to leave behind: In his great mercy, he has given me newness of life into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus.
This journey is long and sometimes painful. It typically starts badly because in our youthfulness we mistakenly begin out of a self-assurance and confidence in our giftedness/abilities. But it ends well. It ends in worship: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It ends in recognition of where life is truly found: In his great mercy. In mercy, newness of life takes root. In mercy, one gets used to the need for second chances and do-overs.
You do recall how Peter got to this point right? Good Friday, where a dark night resulted not only in the death of our Savior but almost the life of not one but two disciples. It happened so quickly: once, twice, and before I (Peter) could even catch myself, it happened a third time. And if that was not enough, I looked around terrified only to catch the eye of Jesus. I was not met with disgust or even disappointment; rather, I was met with the same thing I saw in His eyes toward that Samaritan woman sometime back: compassion. Sadness over the bondage in my soul. I was indeed in bondage to my failure, devastated such that I could not find words. Eventually, like a good Jew, I remembered that the psalms are our prayers when we can’t find our own words and Psalm 69 became mine. Read it for yourself but these words still resonate for me: O God save me! For the waters have come up to my heck. I sink in deep mire where there is not foothold. I am weary from crying out. Answer me, Lord…according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. He answered me but not that first night nor the second. In His relentless commitment to breath new life into His people, God met me at the very place where he first called me, by the seashore. When one fails, he or she often retreats back to what they are good out. I was a fisherman at heart so I went back to the sea. Jesus met me there. And while it was initially painful, making me relive it 3 times, it led to a reinstatement based no longer on any self-confidence but rather on the mercy of my God and the call to get back up and live out of a different hope and energy. Resurrection power! Ah, a reason to celebrate the resurrection not just on Easter but every Sunday, every day actually.
The cornerstone of our faith—resurrection--reminds us that God is always at work bringing about newness in His people, born out of darkness and death and failure. This is Peter’s legacy to us: In his great mercy, he has given us newness of life into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Peace and mercy to you because of the Resurrection!