I understand the self-loathing and disgust that come along with an impetuous personality, for I have offended others and embarrassed myself time after time with impulsive, poorly thought out words. To which of the other disciples did Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.” (Mt. 16:23). That is a harsh word from Jesus. We do not have a record of Peter’s response after that rebuke, but I can imagine that he was likely devastated. He was just trying to protest the idea that Jesus was going to be killed. I am sure it seemed well meaning to Peter at the time, and Christ’s rebuke was surely wounding to him. But faithful are God’s wounds, and Christ’s rebuke was formative as Peter slowly transforms from the impetuous disciple of the gospels to the rock on which Jesus builds his church.
The most soul wrenching interaction between Teacher and disciple is recounted in Matthew 26. On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He tells the disciples of the coming crucifixion and their scattering. Peter rashly proclaims, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Mt. 26:33) Yet, just hours later, Peter denies Jesus – not once, not twice, but three times -- even swearing curses that he never knew Him. Peter quickly comes to himself, goes out, and weeps bitterly (Mt. 26:75). It is a sad, sad scene. Peter has failed Christ miserably. His failure is all the more bitter in light of his bold, naïve protestations that he would never do such a thing.
The first time Peter sees Jesus after the resurrection is recorded in John 21. In contrast to the previous scene, it is all the more beautiful. If anyone should be ashamed, hiding themselves from Jesus, it is Peter. He failed Christ miserably at His darkest hour. Yet both Peter and Jesus have a different reaction than expected. Christ offers no condemnation, and Peter exhibits no shame.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
While the other disciples make a respectful return in the boat, Peter jumps right into the water and swims/runs to Jesus. I can imagine the moment for him—they had crucified his Lord. He had denied Jesus. And there the Savior was, standing on the shore. Peter’s response reflects his utter need for Jesus. “Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. I just denied You three times. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing now. I can’t even catch fish on my own. I’m sitting here fishing on this boat because I have no idea what else I’m supposed to be doing. I need You!” In that moment, NOTHING else mattered. His shame was preempted by his NEED of Jesus. Getting to Jesus was number one priority.
After that scene, Jesus gives Peter a chance to affirm his love for Christ the same number of times Peter had denied it. And each time, Jesus tasks him with the great responsibility, “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17). Do you see the great mercy and grace Christ deliberately shows Peter and deliberately records for us today in his Word? This man, Peter, got it wrong more times than he got it right in the gospels. And, yet, Jesus tells Peter that God will build his house upon Peter the Rock!
This is Peter. As he writes I Peter, he and his audience know exactly who he is, for his mistakes are recorded for posterity in the Gospels and probably regularly read aloud to the very believers to whom he is writing. He has been broken and transformed by the grace of Jesus. Listen to what this impetuous man, betrayer of Jesus, the rock on whom God builds his church, has to say to us under the Spirit’s inspiration in I Peter 1.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
If you are like me--a rash, impetuous woman who has wept bitterly over the stupid, inappropriate things you have said at times, crushed by your ability to ruin a situation that you had every intention of helping—grace and peace to you, dear sister, from someone who understands. Your inheritance in Christ will never perish, spoil or fade. It is kept in heaven for you and is shielded by God Himself until the day you see Him face to face. Stand up. Ask forgiveness if you must. But do not be crushed by the weight of your failures. God has more than made up for your failures. And He will over time transform the qualities of your personality that you likely hate into the very things that He uses to further His kingdom.