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THE HUMAN DISCIPLE

September 3, 2013

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’.” – Matthew 16:13

 

You know, we read an awful lot about Peter throughout the New Testament: aside from Jesus Himself, we are probably not familiar with anyone so much as we are Peter and, of course, Paul. Why? You could say it was because of all the tales – particularly in the Gospels – that directly relate to him…and you’d be right. Personally, however, I think it is because – whether we understand it or not – we can so profoundly relate to him. Look at this man and his career as a disciple to Christ: he was undoubtedly wealthy to have owned his own fishing boat, and from scripture we can assume that he had more than one residence…and yet, he willingly gave it all up to follow the Lord. He was the first of the disciples to openly proclaim Jesus as the Christ, and then several verses later, was rebuked by the Lord for his worldly outlook. He was devoted and loyal to his Master, and yet fulfilled Christ’s prediction of denying the Lord three times. He served a Lord who proclaimed peace, and turning the other cheek – and, who had informed His disciples of what He must suffer to accomplish His mission in this world – and yet Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers that came to apprehend Him! He was understanding, compassionate, and wise – and yet, in Antioch, sometime after the crucifixion, Paul had to rebuke Peter due to his hypocrisy with the Gentiles. He was an impulsive man, who both spoke and acted before he thought: he is a man that is a study in contradictions, constantly wavering back and forth. These are flaws which the devil will always exploit: in Peter, and in ourselves.

 

Yet, lest we judge him too harshly, there is something we must first understand: that Peter is, in fact, representative of us, and the Church as a whole. He demonstrates the weakness of men when they live in the world; and, alternatively, their strength when they live in Christ. He shows us both sides of the coin, and gives us all a glimpse into the mirror: he forces us to look both at what we are, and what we can be when we really learn to rely only on God! I think of Peter’s experience with Christ out on the Sea of Galilee, and I can’t help but think how that one ordeal is a summary for his early relationship with the Lord: how he had the faith and the courage to step out of that boat onto the waves – something most of us could never have done – and yet faltered when he took his eyes off of Jesus. Why? Because he was still immature, still living with one foot in the world – something we all try for a while. Jesus reprimands him for his lack of faith in sinking – when stepping out the boat to start with is beyond most of us! If Peter isn’t living up to His standards here in this passage, then what does that say about how well the rest of us are doing?!

 

So, he stepped out, and then he sank. But, when you think about, isn’t that the way the devil works? With every victory, he tries to slip in and cause a defeat – to get our eyes off Christ and onto the world. And, how often do we allow him to succeed? Just like with Peter’s admission of Jesus as the Christ – as the Son of God: Jesus commends Peter, and tells him that ‘flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but thy Father which is in heaven’ (Matt. 16:13); because here, Peter has begun to grow in his spiritual maturity – as we all do when we listen and are obedient to the revealing Spirit of God. But then, several verses later, when Jesus is explaining to them the necessity of His foreshadowed persecution and death, Peter again speaks before he thinks, causing Christ to rebuke him: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of the world,” (Matt. 16:23). Just because Peter is a disciple to Christ, the Son of the Living God, does not mean that he is without fault, or flaws. He, like any of us, continues to grow until the day he dies. He, like us, has to learn from the trials of his faith, and the tribulations that make him into more than he ever thought he could be.

 

It took Jesus’ death to really force Peter to grow closer to his Lord – because the same man who denied Christ was also the man who was present when the Holy Spirit first descended: who, because of his obedience, converted three-thousand people with his sermon – three-thousand souls added to the glory and kingdom of heaven. Why? Because Peter, I believe, through the trial of his faith, had finally understood what we all must understand if we are to ever really grow: that a person’s true strength comes not from his or her own heart, but from the Spirit of our God that lives within us. Like us, Peter’s prior weaknesses are results of living in the present world, and leaning on his own understanding, rather than God’s. It took a Risen Savior to show Simon Peter this truth – just like it takes a Risen Savior to show us the same. With God, our weaknesses are overcome, and we become vessels for His glory, and tools for His purpose. Like Peter, we can be transformed from mediocre believers into proactive, loving, discerning, and on-fire-for-Christ Saints of God. We can have our own Days of Pentecost, if we can but let that Spirit rule our lives, like Peter learned to let it rule his.

 

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” – I Peter 1:7

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4 Comments
  1. Lynda Ingram permalink

    You are finally back! I was just thinking about the fact that I haven’t seen anything from you for a long time. I know you were too busy at the time. Glad you are back to writing because you do it so well. Love you! Lynda

  2. Carolyn permalink

    Convicting as well as encouraging. Thanks for posting. God bless you!

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