Life Lessons: Peter: The Rock
Here we are at the end of our time with Peter and yet not the end of his story, in fact, it’s the very beginning! I think anyone who has had a true encounter with the Lord can attest to the new beginning that comes when you truly meet the Savior and that is surely true with Peter but before we get there we need to head back to that dark Friday.
Peter has just denied his friend and has left in tears but at this point we aren’t told where he goes. I’ve always assumed he went and hid, not out of fear, but out of shame. However, maybe he roamed the streets? Maybe he tried to get out of town? Maybe he went and found some of the other disciples? Actually, while we know what some disciples did during these three days, like Judas, for most of them, we just don’t have the full record. So when do we pick Peter’s story back up? Easter of course!
Jesus’ burial was a bit rushed due to the Sabbath so we see the women heading to the tomb to anoint the Savior’s body at the beginning of the week. It’s at this moment that they find an empty tomb and an angel proclaiming the risen Savior. Mark 16 tells us that the angel told them, “He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples AND Peter…” (emphasis mine). Why did the angel make this distinction? Peter wasn’t the only one to fail the Lord that night but I think Peter might have written himself off. I think the Father knew that Peter would need to know he was forgiven and still part of the story. Yes, the Lord had told him all of this at the Last Supper but I bet it was hard to remember that on Sunday.
If we, turn over to Luke 24 we get to see how this announcement unfolds with the disciples. The women rush to tell the disciples and it says that they didn’t believe them because “their words seemed to them like nonsense” (verse 11) but Peter immediately ran to the tomb and went right in to see for himself. Once again, doesn’t that just seem like Peter? He just had to know! Can you imagine all the thoughts and questions flooding Peter’s mind as he walked home that day? Excitement at the possibilities… fear over the consequences… shame at having to face the Lord again… Who truly knows? What we do know is that later the disciples (minus Thomas) were together, locked in the upper room for their own safety, when the Lord miraculously appeared to them. He gives them peace, shows them his wounds as “proof” and leaves. They are overjoyed at what they have just seen. Jesus is alive but that’s not the reuniting moment I love so much.
A little later, in John 21, we see some of the disciples out fishing again… back to their old lives. Yet, something is about to happen that will turn their world, and ours, upside down. The disciples had not had a successful night fishing, actually they caught nothing at all, but that morning a man stood on the shore and gave them instructions to cast their nets over the right side of the boat which they did and had such a catch that they couldn’t haul it in.
It was at this moment that John turns to Simon Peter and says, “It is the Lord!” and classic Peter jumps in the water to swim back to shore. I think this shows us several things about Peter… First, it tells me that Peter’s priorities have changed. By trade, Simon Peter was a fisherman. That was his livelihood but this day he left behind what could have been a bank roll for just a glimpse of the Savior. Second, the fact that he didn’t hesitate tells me his faith had grown immensely. No discussing with the other disciples. No waiting to get closer to shore to see if it really was the Lord. Just all in…once again, a great picture of Peter’s final legacy. And third, it tells me that his desire for the Savior outweighed his shame and disappointment.
They all have a lovely breakfast with Christ and I bet Peter was thinking, “Maybe He won’t bring it up? Maybe we can just move forward?” but then Jesus turns to him and asks a question that I can only imagine pierced Peter to the soul. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” SIMON…remember it was the Lord that gave him the nickname of Peter because he would be the rock. If I was Simon Peter, I would have felt the loss of intimacy with that question. It’s almost too formal. Peter of course tell Jesus he loves him and the Lord asks him to feed the lambs. Then Christ asks again if he loves him, calling him Simon once more. Peter, naturally assures the Lord that he does love him to which the Lord asks him to take care of the sheep.
Finally, the Lord asks a third time if Simon really loves him and at this point Peter is hurt. I would have been too! “See, he’ll never trust me again”, “I’m just a failure”, “I will never be able to make this right”. Can you imagine all the thoughts running through his head? I think that Simon Peter was hurt because these questions mirrored the accusations he had within himself but Peter’s response is beautiful because it shows he finally got who Jesus was... “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17)… “Feed my sheep.”
It may initially seem unkind to ask Peter this question three times. If the Lord knows all, why hurt Peter that way? I think the Lord wanted to give Peter a do-over. Yes, he denied Christ three times but that was before the cross, before the tomb and before his new life began. That was before his life as Peter, the Rock. Simon, disappears form scripture and Peter remains. The rock on which the Church was built. You need only flip a few pages to see this foundation, when Peter addresses the crowd at Pentecost, when he begins doing the very thing the Lord asked of him. Feeding and taking care of the sheep which through his journeys and letters he is still doing today.
Throughout the rest of his life, Peter gives many great words of wisdom for his brothers and sisters in Christ but for me, in light of his story, two stand out. The first comes from 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” and to me that shows the mark of love and forgiveness on his life. This is decades after Christ returned to heaven and yet, I think Peter is still very cognizant of the magnitude of the forgiveness he received because of Jesus’ great love and the impact that love can have on others. The other passage comes from 2 Peter 3:8-9, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.
There it is, the Gospel story that he would eventually die for because he had experienced its life changing power and the one that even through the centuries he is wanting us to grasp. A beautiful transformation from a Simon to a Peter because of the unwavering love of an incredible Savior!
If you’ve met Christ, think of your old life compared to your new. What transformations have you seen?
What changes are still needed?
Are there any “failures” that you are having a hard time letting go of currently? Ask the Lord for a do-over.
Praise the Lord for His merciful forgiveness and for all the do-overs He has provided in your life. Also, thank Him for His patience in bring us to repentance and salvation.