I wish I was like John.
He was the disciple who referred to himself as the “one whom Jesus loved.” You often find him resting on Jesus’ chest.
Unfortunately, I am more like Peter: wishy-washy, prone to angry outbursts, susceptible to speaking before thinking.
Part of our reading during Easter week each year is the denial of Peter. He is a wonderful character to study. Peter bounces from hero to charlatan, from genius to fool, and from faithful to faithless. I find it fascinating because I find myself in the twists and turns of his story.
Zooming out on Peter’s adventures, we see a yo-yo effect:
- When Jesus thins the crowd by talking about drinking His blood and eating His body, he asks the disciples if they will leave him, too. It was Peter who said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”
- On the mount of transfiguration it was Peter who wanted to make three altars and God rebukes him: “[Jesus] is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
- Peter has faith to get out of the boat and walk on the water.
- Peter loses sight of Jesus and starts to sink.
- When Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” it is Peter who answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus goes on to call Peter “blessed” and gives him a new name with spiritual authority.
- In the very next paragraph in Matthew, Jesus foretells his death and Peter rebukes him. Jesus says to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me.”
- Peter preaches a powerful sermon after the ascension of Jesus and three thousand people repent and believe.
- Paul has to confront Peter because he would eat with the Gentiles, but only when there were no Jews around.
What a roller coaster ride!
Zooming in on passion week, John records in chapter 18 that when Jesus is confronted by the Chief Priests and Pharisees with torches and lanterns, it is Peter who brandishes a sword and strikes one of the high priest’s slaves. Yet immediately after the garden narrative, John tells us that Peter denies Jesus three times.
This is astonishing to me, not because I can’t understand how Peter could be so hot and then so cold, but because I see so much of myself in his actions.
I am the guy who can take a huge leap of faith, but the moment I leave the boat I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.
I am the guy who can recognize God’s miracles, but I begin to desire them more than Him.
I am the guy who can preach, but then find ways that I’m a hypocrite.
I am the guy who’d guess that God is angry with me rather than compassionate.
So what does God do with no-good people like me?
He uses us to feed His sheep and glorify Himself.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
If Peter resonates with you more than John, be comforted, friends. God loved Peter, too, and He worked through him in powerful ways. He loves you, and He’s ready to use your life.
Psalm 147: Praise the Lord… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds… His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love…