February, 2005: Peter

Peter is a wonderful encouragement to Christians. Peter is so fully human, so capable of great moments of insight and great moments of bumbling. What a blessing it is to have Scripture’s accounts of his interactions with the Lord.

Peter was born in Galilee to a fisherman by the name of Jona. He and his brother Andrew became partners with Zebedee and his sons James and John in a fishing business. All four, Peter, Andrew, James and John were to become disciples of Jesus. He was married – one of Jesus’ early healings involved Peter’s mother-in-law. (Mark 1).

As a disciple Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle. He makes the confession of the Church, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). He, James, and John go with Jesus and witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17).

The transfiguration is a great moment of Peter’s humanity: confronted with an unimaginable moment of eternity, Peter speaks up demonstrating the hubris of mortal man, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” In other words, “Lord, if the Father needs us to lend a hand in giving you guys a place to sit down….”  Well…Peter…thanks…but I think we’re OK.

Peter’s commitment and devotion are evident. When Jesus moves to wash the disciples’ feet, Peter protests out of his respect. Then, after Jesus explains, Peter says, “Then, Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:4-11) After Judas’ betrayal, Peter declares his allegiance and maintains his pledge even after Jesus’ predicts the denial. (Matthew 26:33-35).  In one of the most emotionally wrenching passages of Scripture, Peter realizes how he disowned Jesus and weeps bitterly. (Mathew 26:74-75). What a compelling portrait of the consequence of sin!

Yet that’s not the end of Peter’s story. He loses to John the race to see the empty tomb (John 20:3-4) but ignores concerns about ritual cleanliness and blasts right by John to go in to look. Jesus reinstates Peter’s position by having Peter declare his love three times and commanding him to “Feed my sheep.”

Transformed, Peter returns to Jerusalem. On Pentecost, he delivers the keynote sermon culminating in, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36).

By tradition the Gospel of Mark is based upon the personal witness of Peter. His exploits and challenges within the early church are recounted in the early part of the book of Acts.

Ultimately, Peter went to Rome. There he was imprisoned. According to church tradition, the Roman Emperor Nero set out to slaughter the Apostles. Peter was crucified upside down while in Rome.

 When I think of Peter, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians, that they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it was God who was working in him to will and act according to his good purpose. Peter’s struggles to be obedient in faith are the same as ours. His was a daily walk with the Lord. He desired to please God in all he did. I just imagine God laughing and shaking His head like we do with children.

Peter also is an encouragement because he shows that the road to being perfected is itself not perfect. We continue to experience the refiner’s fire throughout our lives. We trip, we stumble, we fall. When we do, God remains faithful. God sustains us therefore we persevere.  Christ asks us again and again, “Do you love me?”

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