One of the personalities I admire in the New Testament is the Apostle Peter. Peter’s makeup is fully visible to the reader. His good points and where he needs work are clearly evident. They were evident to Jesus too. How Jesus handled Peter’s faults in a forgiving, loving manner is touching as well as encouraging.
Peter and his fishing partner brother, Andrew, were two of the first followers of Jesus’ ministry to leave their occupations and become dedicated to his cause. Jesus challenged both men to come with him and be “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Peter’s confidence and leadership qualities likely impressed Jesus. Peter listened and learned, thus gaining teaching and debate skills he would use later. He often acted as spokesman for the group of 12 disciples, but there were times he spoke too quickly and needed correction.
One of the things I admire about Peter is the strength of his faith, which developed over the three years of Jesus’ ministry. He went from zero to super on the “faith Richter scale” in that time.
One occasion, cited in Matthew 16:13-18, Jesus asked the group, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
They replied that some people say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or other prophets. Then Jesus asked them, “But, who do you say that I am?”
This is where Peter shone in my book when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus commended Peter by saying to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.”
Peter’s faith was tested to the core later when Jesus was accused of being a fake and a blasphemer by the religious leaders, and brought to the high priest. Peter stayed while the other disciples fled. He followed Jesus and the guards into the courtyard, and was confronted three times for being a Jesus follower. Peter strongly denied he knew Jesus. Then, Peter saw Jesus turn to look at him. Jesus had predicted his three-time denial earlier. Peter, realizing what he had done, left the area to be alone, and he wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:57-74)
Jesus’ arrest led to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Peter had gone back to his fishing business, but was still in need of reconciliation to Jesus. Jesus took the initiative over breakfast that he prepared on the beach, by inviting Peter and the disciples to join him. Afterward, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter answered and assured Jesus each time, saying, “Yes Lord, you know that I love You.” Jesus, speaking then as the Good Shepherd, replied, “Feed My lambs; Tend My sheep; and Feed My sheep.” (John 21:12-17) This was Peter’s open invitation to restoration, and indicated to him that he was needed as a leader.
Peter became a strong leader in the beginnings of the early church. He emphasized the unity of Jew and Gentile through his mentoring and preaching. Peter also wrote I and II Peter, two New Testament letters addressed to the early churches.
Jesus’ acceptance and forgiveness changed Peter like it had David, Jonah and other followers who sinned when they failed in their faithfulness to the Lord. Peter’s story emphasizes once again that though we fail, we are not a failure.
Shirley Pritchard lives in Frederick and attends Brook Hill United Methodist Church. Writing and oil painting have been fulfilling ways to express her faith and creativity.