One of the unique aspects of the Gospel of Mark is that account’s inclusion of details regarding the apostle Peter. Most scholars believe that Peter was, in fact, one of the chief sources for much of the information Mark compiled, and this would account for the many instances where we find facts most likely recalled by Peter himself.
But Mark also records details that relate to Peter from other sources. One particularly interesting example is found in the account of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus shortly after the resurrection and who were instructed to tell the disciples and Peter to go to Galilee where they would see Jesus (Mark 16:7).
Notice the message was to “… his disciples and Peter …” – not “his disciples, including Peter…,” and we can see a whole world of significance in that expression. Saying “… his disciples and Peter …” clearly positions Peter alongside, not within, the fellowship of the disciples. Peter’s fall in denying Jesus three times (Matthew 26:34) left the previously foremost apostle suddenly on the outside of the group he had previously led.
Peter was repentant, of course (Matthew 26:75), but he had to learn that we cannot deny Jesus and still be considered one of his followers (Matthew 10:33, 2 Timothy 2:12, etc.). Peter’s full reconciliation with the resurrected Jesus would occur later in Galilee (John 21:15-19), but at this point Peter was still looking at his relationship with God from the outside, not from within the group of the disciples.
Yet despite his tragic failure, the divine message was not one of “tell the disciples but not Peter…”, it was one of “tell the disciples and Peter…”. This must have been of great encouragement to the well-meaning fisherman. By including him in the message – even at somewhat of a distance – Peter was given hope that God still desired to work with him. That hope was fulfilled in the message Jesus gave Peter when they met in Galilee:
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-18).
It is often said that Jesus asked Peter if he still loved him three times – once for each of Peter’s denials – but it is clear that Jesus was also driving home his point, that if Peter still loved him, he offered Peter full reconciliation and authorized him to continue the work to which he had been called.
It is a principle that applies to all of us. When we fail in some way in our own lives, we may feel that we have put ourselves outside of the family of believers, and in some cases that may be what we have done (1 John 1:6). But at those times the resurrection message to Peter applies to us also. It is a tremendously encouraging message that we are still positioned, if we choose, to return to full fellowship (1 John 1:7) – a fellowship that is based on affirmation and not on denial, on obedience and not on sin (1 John 2:1-2, 4-6). That is a message that brought hope to Peter with the words “… and Peter …”, and it is a message that offers ongoing hope and encouragement to all who wish to return to fellowship with the resurrected Christ.