Most people can relate to the Apostle Peter. His tenacious, spontaneity attracts the wild at heart. He was quick to speak and slow to listen just like so many of us. He often found himself in situations that could have been avoided if he simply kept his eyes on the glory of Christ. All of these things make Peter such a relatable person. But there’s a danger in finding comfort in relatability alone. We need more. We need victory. All of us do. And Peter, though it took a while, eventually learned to find His victory in Christ. God transformed him from a faithless, rebellious, betrayer to a gracious lover of people and a powerful witness for the glory of the Gospel.
Walking and drowning
We’ve all heard it. Jesus walked on water. But that’s easy for Him. He’s God. But He’s not the only man in history to do so. Peter had a moment when in the midst of a ferocious storm he set his gaze on Christ and stepped out of the boat onto the sea. Jesus was all he needed in that moment. In his mind there was no storm, only the Lord of glory that bid him come. But something happened. He began to focus just for a moment on the surrounding difficulty and sunk beneath the waves. His mistake is clear to us now in hindsight. Yet still, we all do it time and time again. We relate to Peter here but that’s not where we find strength.
Spirit and Flesh
Peter was sure in what he believed. Or so he thought he was. As Jesus huddled with his twelve in Matthew 16 he asked a simple question. “Who do people say that I am?” After a round of answers Jesus focused in on Peter and asked it to him personally. “Peter, who do you say that I am?” “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Bingo! What a glorious confession of truth. Jesus blessed his words as a holy confession that did not come from human intellect but from the Father in Heaven. In fact, these words were so good that Jesus instructs the future Church as a whole to be built upon that very confession, and in so doing not even the gates of Hell will prevail against it. But once more it all came crashing down for Peter when in the next moment Jesus began to speak of the necessity of His death. Peter denied it. Jesus replied, “Get behind me Satan.” Ouch! Behaviors worthy of praise and rebuke only moments apart. Something each of us can relate to.
Commitment and Denial
Finally, in Luke 22 Jesus warns Peter that a day is coming soon when the Satan will sift his life like a baker sifts wheat. Peter won’t have it. Sensing that what Jesus truly meant, that he would be tempted to deny the Lord, Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” But Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Sure enough, the record shows that while Jesus made His way from the garden of Gethsemane to the Jerusalem courts to be tried he denied His Lord three times. Could there be a darker day? It hurts to be betrayed. But it also hurts to be the guilty betrayer of a man who came to die for that very sin.
Victory is Better
By now we can see that even with just these three examples of Peter’s life we can all relate. But what we need is a Victor and a Savior, not just someone to relate to. And that’s exactly what we see in Jesus. When Peter sunk in the water after taking his eyes of the Lord, who was the one to lift him out? Later Jesus rebuked Peter for refusing to believe in the necessity of His death, but we never see Him writing Peter off completely. And when Peter denied the Lord three times, a sin we’d all rather leave off our own lists, we know that Jesus remained with him through it all with a plan to restore his faith and use him to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Peter’s hope, his Savior, his Victor was Jesus. He sinned often, but learned to repent often. He fell regularly but learned to lean on Jesus in order to stand again. Sin often beset him, but Jesus took that sin to the cross and nailed it there so that real victory and hope could be found. It’s good and often comforting to relate to Peter, but it’s not enough. Look to Jesus for strength. When you fail, and you probably will often, He will restore you.
Luke 22:31 – 32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”