Let's talk Peter:
Peter was a Jewish fisherman OG from Bethsaida, who moved to Capernaum along the Sea Galilee. Before Jesus changed it, his name was Simon and he was an uneducated guy working what society considered to be a "lower-end" job as a fisherman.
It wasn’t a glam life. He was the star of Deadliest Catch: Galilee or the newest star on The Rich Kids of Capernaum Hills. He wasn’t a rich bachelor guy in his beach condo drinking mimosas, and Chris Harrison definitely wouldn’t have asked him to star on Bachelor in Paradise if he was eliminated from his season of The Bachelorette: Israel [Obviously. Fisherman never make it to hometown dates] Before Jesus, Simon was doing what appeared to be regular, normal, nothing-extra-special life. He was a married guy with a temper, big mouth, and a sea-side accent who worked with his brother Andrew fishing it up with their business partners James and John. He caught fish. He sold fish. He went home to start it all over the next day. Not enough material for a “Keeping up with the Fishermens” franchise [but keep it real, Kris Jenner definitely could have momager-ed him into a spin-off if she tried]
The significance of this is that Simon was a totally normal, real guy living an extremely normal life who went on to lead the apostles and become Peter the Rock.
In Matt 4:18-20, Mark 1:16-18, and Luke 5:1-11, we see Jesus asking Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and be His disciples. Jesus comes to them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Luke 5, and tells them to cast their nets again after they had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing. Thinking this guy must be a crazy pants, they try again and their nets rip from all of the fish they’ve suddenly caught. In verse 8, Simon realizes who Jesus is and says “Oh Lord,
please leave me—I am such a sinful man.” [Matthew 5:8]
Instead of Jesus saying “Yeah, you really are” and peacing out, Jesus says “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” [Matthew 5:10]
The story of Simon Peter isn’t really about a fisherman becoming something amazing; the focus of Peter’s story is about Jesus using an uneducated fisherman, despite his failures, despite his mistakes, despite his lack of qualifications, to become His rock and start His Church. The story of Peter really isn’t about Peter at all. It’s about God’s transformation, never ending forgiveness, unending grace, and ability to qualify the called not call the qualified.
We usually look at Peter and forget this story was real. Peter was a real guy with a real family, real failures, real mistakes, a real life, and he was really a disciple and friend of Jesus. Often we simplify Peter’s life to:
- He was a fisherman
- His name changed
- He betrayed Jesus but then Jesus forgave him
I think we usually think of Peter as the guy who made “one big mistake” and then he was forgiven and transformed and went on to change the world. But, Peter’s transformation and mistakes started way before his denial of Jesus.
Throughout Jesus’s time with Peter, we see him fail over and over and Jesus keeps forgiving and growing him.
In Matthew 16, Jesus changed Simon’s name and life forever:
This is big.
Big, big, big.
In this time in history, especially in Jewish tradition, the meaning of your name was a big deal and was often thought of as being prophetic in many respects; people specifically named their children after life events, events surrounding their children's births, or names that had significance in hopes that their children would take on the characteristics or virtues of that name. Simon means "he has heard" in Hebrew and "snub nosed" in Greek [not exactly a cute pick for a "100 Top Baby Names and their Meanings" list.]
In that passage in Matthew, Jesus tells Peter,
Peter the fisherman who had an anger issues, who doubted Jesus and fell in the sea, who would promise to never betray His Lord, who would fall asleep while Jesus was waiting to be arrested and killed, who would cut off a priest's slave's ear, and deny his best friend Jesus three times while He was being beaten and illegally tried,
that he would be His Rock. Not just Jesus's rock, but His rock on which He would build His Church. Not only did Jesus rename and transform Peter and declare him to be the foundation of the Church, but Jesus told him the gates of hell couldn't stop what He was putting into motion. Jesus declared that Peter wasn't his past mistakes or failures, he was being transformed into something new and Jesus would use him despite the mistakes he had and would make.
Get. Out. Of. Town.
Jesus knew Peter was a hot head with a past, He knew Peter would betray Him, he knew this wasn't Peter's first or last failure, He knew Peter wasn't a hot-shot with years of doctrinal education and a PHD, and still He chose to transform him and use him.
Down the road, the famous denial happens. In Matthew 16:22 and 26:33, Peter promises Jesus he would never, ever betray Him, despite Jesus telling Him he would. But, in Matthew 26:69, 70, and 72, Peter denies Jesus three times. His best friend, his savior, his leader. He doesn't just say no I'm out, he says "I never knew Him."
This is where I think we forget how real this gets and how deeply, deeply painful and significant that was.
Jesus isn't just God, He's fully man and fully God. Those words broke His heart like they'd break yours.
But the incredible thing about all of these stories and events is that Jesus still wanted Peter and Jesus still used Peter. Jesus still died to save Peter. Jesus still built His Church on Peter. Jesus knew Peter would keep on making mistakes and because of His incredible grace and power, still chose Peter.
We can learn 1,000 things from these passages alone, but what I see today is a God who forgives sinners, transforms sinners, uses sinners for His glory, and still uses and forgives us even though He knows we will sin, fail, and deny Him again. Jesus died for the sins of all people so that whoever would believe He was the son of God and believe God raised him from the dead would be saved forever and have a place in heaven. He used a messy guy like Peter to start the Church and lead the apostles. He used Peter's failures and mess-ups so that Peter could relate to the other messy, messed up, hot-headed people around him and share Jesus with them. Jesus didn't pick the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the religious big-shots that looked perfect and polished to be His followers and start His Church; Jesus knew those people were legalistic and faking their goodness and relationships with God. Jesus chose Peter because he was a failure with a future, not a faker with a clean outside and empty inside.
Don't put stipulations on what God can or cannot do with you or any other messy, sinful, mistake-ridden failure. God is bigger than your limits, your mistakes, and your sin. God transform us and makes us new. God uses our ugly, past mistakes and is so powerful that He can use those terrible choices to grow us, teach us, and make us ready for the work He calls us to do. God's love is so great and unfathomable that He loves you in spite of your failures. His grace is so deep and never-ending that once you accept His free gift of salvation, no sin you commit will ever separate you from Him again. God isn't a god of burdens He is a God of Freedom. He isn't a God of labels, He is a God of names. God doesn't leave you at "messy failure" He tells us that the only labels we need are "forgiven, free" and "Child of God".
God shows us through Peter that our failure is not our identity, our identity is in Christ and the freedom He gives us.
God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
"Mindful of this day of Peter and his crushing denials of Christ. Praise God for the man Jesus made of him in the aftermath. It proves that, in Him, failure is NOT a life sentence. The cross of Christ stands eternally fixed, a stake in the ground, between failing and being a failure. I see few heavier burdens among believers than the crushing weight many continue to bear over previous failure sorrowfully repented of years ago. Example: parents who feel they failed their kids often live the remaining decades of their lives-not as having failed but-as failures. That Thursday night at the Passover table, Jesus knew the difference between a faker [Judas] and a failure [Peter]. That failure became a success: One of the fiercest forces in New Testament history. Give it to Jesus. Every ounce of your failure. Offer it to Him to do with it whatever He pleases. Let Jesus make of it humility, gratitude, compassion, empathy for others fraught with their own feelings of failure and shame. Lead the way to the cross where Jesus bore it. There, by faith, failures are crucified with Christ and no longer live and trophies of grace walk out of graves."