Like most folks I had a rather stereotypical impression of Peter. As a rough fisherman, he is brought to Christ by his brother Andrew (John 1) and seems to almost immediately embark on a journey fraught with impulsiveness.
He rebukes Christ as He foretold about His death, he denies that he ever knew Christ the night of his crucifixion and later whines about the future assignments the Lord has for the other disciples. He speaks first and thinks later.
Paul caught him being duplicitous in Galatians 2. Peter was eating the entire spectrum of foods with the Gentiles until the Jewish church leaders showed up from Jerusalem and then suddenly he (Peter) would only eat those things sanctioned by their dietary laws.
You can see that it would be easy to settle for a shallow understanding of this great early church leader. But with some study of the New Testament, a different impression can be found.
You see, this wavering saint also was the one who made the great confession that Christ was indeed the messiah (Matthew 16). He is the one who understood the importance of Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17) and he is the leader of the “leadership group” (Peter, James and John) who led the early church. Remember he was the one who preached on the day of Pentecost and 3000 people got saved.
He wrote with great skill. His two epistles are chock full of literary figures of speech. He is incredibly familiar with the Old Testament. He is insightful in his exhortations.
And notice the dichotomy of how he describes himself in II Peter 1:1. He calls himself a servant (a freed slave who chooses to remain indentured to a loving master -see Exodus 21:1-6) and an apostle (one who was privileged to see with his own eyes the resurrected Christ and because of it was given the highest leadership position in the early church). He is a humble leader.
As I thought about my changing impressions of Peter, I couldn’t help but see a pattern. First Jesus calls Peter’s attention to what he is…and then He makes sure to give Peter a sense of what he could be. Jesus changed his name from Simon to Cephas (Aramaic for “rock”) to make sure Peter was clear about his potential.
Maybe this week you are struggling a bit with your own imperfections, maybe even bogged down by your failures. If so, let Peter’s life with Jesus be an encouragement to you. You may be…struggling. But you can be…victorious. You may be…fearful. But you can be strong and of good courage.
We are all flawed just like Peter. But we too have amazing potential to be useful to Christ. Remember Peter’s words: “And the God of all grace…will Himself restore you and make you strong.”
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel