Peter’s personal story is a significant one. He was called from his life as a fisherman to follow Christ as an apostle; early on he was set apart. Jesus changed his name, Simon, to Peter, “the rock” and told him that the church would be built upon him (Matthew 16). He was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, even testing his own faith by following Jesus out onto the water (Matthew 14). Then his narrative turns as he is overcome by fear and doubt, denying his connection to Jesus three times, fulfilling the prophetic words he’d heard and rejected (Luke 22).
Both special distinctions and enormous regrets can cause us harm if we don’t accept them humbly. Peter was able to experience both without asserting himself pridefully or retreating into ineffective self-pity.
One of my favorite scriptures is about Peter, found in the book of Luke. Jesus speaks these reassuring words just after He has told Peter how he will deny Him.
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32
Peter must have considered these words over and over once he realized what he’d done. This terrible, humbling moment of letting Jesus down and knowing how deeply he was forgiven anyway must have profoundly affected his life and ministry. He was a bold follower, but he completely understood that it was Jesus’ love that saved him, not own his merit. As he wrote his letters, a passionate desire to live in obedience resounds – not because he had to, but because he had gone “from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2) and found life actively following Jesus was the only thing that satisfied.
I spend way too much time self-focused, wondering about my personal role and contribution; how I’m perceived, what will happen for me next. When I make a mistake, I dwell on the minutia of it. It takes me so long to forgive myself. I imagine Peter had some of this as well, as most people do, but it wasn’t where he stayed. He was able to receive incredible visions (Acts 10-11), pray without despair as he was jailed until miraculously released by an angel (Acts 12) and lead and encourage large numbers of believers. As we finish reading his letters, let us ask God to turn our minds towards Him, ready to receive the message He has for us.