Apologies for the lateness of this post – yesterday we were travelling back from a short city break and, after losing two children for a panicky 20 minutes in the hustle and bustle of a big city station, we missed our train, so we didn’t get home until gone 9 o’clock, after which we went straight to bed.
Peter is one of my all-time biblical favourites. Right from the beginning, right from when Jesus intrigued him by saying that he could be a ‘fisher of men’, Peter was wholeheartedly eager. That’s why I love him – because he so desperately wanted to do the right thing, he so desperately wanted to follow Jesus. When he first met Jesus, Peter was in awe of Him, and drawn to Him in a way he probably couldn’t have explained. Later, it was Peter who realised the significance of Jesus, realised Who He was, and wanted to please Him. It was also Peter who, when the time came for Jesus to meet His great sorrow, promised to never betray Him… and it was Peter who, when the chips were down, denied that he even knew Jesus.
What sorrow he must have felt in the days between Jesus’ arrest and resurrection. Peter didn’t know what would happen. He didn’t know about the resurrection. All he knew was the bleak emptiness of grief. Utter despair. I imagine he was racked with guilt and self-loathing. After all, he’d said he was willing to die for Jesus, that he loved Him with his whole heart, and instead he ran away!
Peter was, without doubt, very human, fallen and broken just like the rest of us. He’d sensed the greatness of Jesus’ life, been in awe and wonder over His mission. He just hadn’t had the strength to be who he really wanted to be. Later… my word! What happened later was phenomenal. But at first, in the early years, Peter just wanted to be with Jesus, and that was all that Jesus required – for Peter to just be Peter. That’s all any of us are asked to do: just be.
‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.’
In time, things do change, if I stay focused on His face. But things do not change in my own strength. The strength required to change comes only from Him. It cannot be bought, or earned, or won. It is freely given. I just have to be willing.
…Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home. And when he had sent them away he went up the hill-side quite alone, to pray. When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a long way from the shore at the mercy of the waves, for the wind was dead against them. In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the water of the lake. When the disciples caught sight of him walking on the water they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. But at once Jesus spoke to them. “It’s all right! It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!”
“Lord, if it’s really you,” said Peter, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come on, then,” replied Jesus.
Peter stepped down from the boat and did walk on the water, making for Jesus. But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out, “Lord save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying, “You little-faith! What made you lose your nerve like that?” Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped. The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying, “You are indeed the Son of God!”
Matthew 14:22-33 (JB Philliips)