I always saw the Apostle Peter as a tough, course, foul-mouthed seaman when Jesus crossed his path. Like most historic figures we try to piece together their lives based on a few biographical sketches. Peter has always intrigued me – maybe because I feel I can relate to him. More than any other Bible figure he seems to me the most human. He is given to rash statements, he often acts before he thinks about the consequences, but when all the information is made available to him, he typically does the right thing.
I like Peter because he displays all the tell-tale characteristics of a mythical hero. He is bold, courageous and even heroic at times (he was ready to die when he drew his sword and cut off Malchus ear). Then, like most heroic figures he is fatally flawed. The same man who was ready to die also denied his Master, hid from his enemies, and at times fell under the stress of peer pressure from the Jews.
This Sunday we had a great discussion about the life of Peter and most of it centered around his impetuous character. For the better part of 40 minutes it was the Jerry Springer version of Bible class – we focused in on all the stupid things that Peter did:
- He tried to block Jesus from going to Jerusalem (Matthew 16).
- He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet (John 13).
- He cuts off Malchus ear (John 18).
- He denied Jesus 3 times (John 18).
- He struggled with fully welcoming Gentiles into fellowship with the Jews (Galatians 2:11ff).
It is really easy for us to focus in on the flaws of others, but my image of Peter is different. I see this old man, living in Jerusalem who has a lifetime of experiences to share with the church. He knows what it is to fail, to come up short time and again, and despite all of his failures he has the ability to advance to a roll of leadership in the church.
When Jesus called Peter to leave his fishing nets and follow him, Jesus saw the potential in Peter. Few of us would have selected him as one of our inner circle. I doubt we would have seen him as the man most qualified to lead a spiritual revolution that captured the world. Sinner and Saint – that is what made Peter uniquely qualified for his calling.
It is in our weakness we are made strong.