After a great study of the book of James a while back, I’ve decided to go back to that neighborhood. All we have to do is go next door to the next book or letter in the New Testament which is 1st Peter. James and Peter like all other New Testament writers share common themes and practical application for living out our faith in obedience to God in Christ Jesus. James and Peter both talk about perseverance especially when facing trials, tests, suffering, and persecution because that’s what the early church and new believers were experiencing when these letters were written. But before we get rolling with 1 Peter, let’s do a little background on the writer.

For most of us who have been in or around church for a long time, Peter needs little introduction. He isn’t just one of the 12 original disciples of Jesus. He’s one of 3 in Jesus’ inner circle along with James and John. He’s a bigger than life personality. He’s brash and says whatever pops into his head. He’s impetuous, overzealous, and somewhat annoying at times. After all Jesus did tell Peter in Matthew 16:23 to “get behind me satan!” I’d say that qualifies as getting on someone’s last nerve. However, Peter’s annoying qualities are equally matched by his most endearing. He’s loyal, charismatic, passionate, and above all resilient. As we’ll see, he hasn’t lost his fire and boldness for proclaiming the gospel, but it has been tempered by experience and especially his failures. Despite it’s negative reputation, failure can be a good teacher.

Ok, first of all, the dude walked on water! Yes, in Matthew 14:22-33 which is the account of Jesus walking on water, he took a literal leap of faith and walked on water. Matthew 14:29 says, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Of course, he only took a few steps before sinking below the waves, but he did it. Who else can say that? None of the others got out of the boat or asked Jesus if they could join Him on the water. As usual Peter didn’t think before he said or did much of anything. So, when Jesus told him to get out of the boat and come to Him, he did. His faith may have been small in that moment as Jesus said after pulling Peter out of the water, but his heart and his desire to be more like Jesus was huge.

Peter was also very quick to protect Jesus. He proved it when a group of men including Judas were sent by the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious leaders) to arrest Jesus as they were leaving the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, who just a few moments earlier during the last supper told Jesus, “I will lay my life down for you” (John 13:37), didn’t hesitate when Jesus was threatened. He quickly drew his sword and cut an ear off of one of the men who was sent to arrest Jesus. (Matthew 26:50) However, we have to remember that immediately after Peter’s declaration to defend Jesus to the death, Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Then just a few hours later it happens. Peter does the unthinkable, something that he swore that he would never do. He denies his Savior, Lord, and friend just as Jesus had predicted.

Following his denial and betrayal of Jesus, it says in Luke 22:62 that Peter “wept bitterly”, which is πικρῶς (pikrós) in the original Greek. It means “violently”. His guilt, anguish, and remorse over his failure was overwhelming and unbearable. Plus, Jesus had just warned him of his impending failure in Luke 22:34, and yet he failed nonetheless. So I’m sure Jesus’ warning played like a broken record over and over in his mind. It would have been easy for Peter at this moment to give up and walk away never to be heard from again, and yet he persevered. His resilience and love for Jesus was on full display when he regrouped with the other disciples and followers in Jerusalem right after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. I’m sure it was extremely awkward for him to be there. Even if no-one else knew what he’d done, he knew and yet he came back. He was also one of the first to run to the tomb after it was discovered that Jesus’ body was gone. He was probably desperate to undo what he’d done, and hoping against all hope that Jesus would be able to forgive him.

If we read on in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, which all contain versions of this account, we know that Peter is eventually restored. Of course, Jesus who is God and omniscient (All knowing) already knew what Peter was going to do. He even gave Peter (Simon) a clue in Luke 22:31-32 about what was coming when He said, 31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He knew Peter really loved Him, and that after his failure he would indeed “turn back” and “strengthen the brothers.”

This is my favorite part of Peter’s story because as a sinner I can relate to how he feels. In spite of his catastrophic failure, overwhelming guilt, and shame, he hangs in there. Not for his own self esteem or glory, but because he still believes in Jesus and loves Him with all his heart. So, he’s hoping for another shot at redemption, to make things right with his Lord and his friend.

It takes a while but in John 21 Jesus makes his third post resurrection appearance to the disciples while they’re fishing. At first they didn’t recognize Him, but after a case of fishing deja vu they know exactly who it is. Then, Jesus asks them to have breakfast with Him, and I would imagine that Peter is having a hard time making eye contact with Jesus without feeling the sting of his betrayal, but then it happens.

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” to which Peter replies, “Lord you know that I love”. But, Jesus doesn’t just ask it once or twice, He asks Peter three times “do you love me”. It says in John 21:17 that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time. So, was Jesus rubbing it in that Peter had denied him three times or was he symbolically reassuring Peter that everything was going to be okay? Of course, it was the latter because Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs” meaning that Jesus wasn’t finished with him after all. But in typical fashion Peter ruins the moment when He looks over at John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and said “what about him?” I guess Peter was expecting Jesus to ask John the same question three times. So, instead of gratitude for what Jesus had just done and giving Him a big bro hug, Peter is being jealous, insecure, and petty. I can imagine Jesus shaking His head and saying, “Dude, really? After what you did, you’re worried about John?” Ok, so Jesus probably wouldn’t have said “dude”, but you know that I mean.

In spite of everything, Peter does become “the rock” that Jesus built his church upon as Jesus said he would in Matthew 16:18. He would “turn back” (repent) and “strengthen the brothers” as well as a great multitude of believers from then until now. Peter would never deny Jesus again. He would remain faithful persevering to the end becoming one of the greatest leaders-apostles of the early church and later he would make good on his promise to lay down his life for his Lord. However, the main reason that Peter is one of my favorites is because he’s one of the greatest examples in the Bible of someone who isn’t perfect and yet the Lord still uses him for His glory. Again, Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He knew that Peter loved Him in spite of all his imperfections. Just like David, Peter really was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), and I find that very encouraging. Maybe, there is still hope for me yet.

Ok, next week we’ll dive into this great letter from Peter!