August 28, 2012

A Liar Becomes a Rock

I am working through a study on 1 Peter, and this past week the focus was on background info on Peter himself.  We're pretty familiar with the fact that he betrayed Jesus by denying that he even knew Him, this friend he'd walked with, eaten with, ministered with.  Peter had seen Jesus do tons of miracles, had been with Him as He preached to the crowds, had stepped out of the safety of a boat to meet Jesus by walking on water.  This was no casual acquaintance they had.

But when the pressure was on, Peter denied even knowing Him, not once, but three times over a short few hours.  In the courtyard, just after being with Jesus at the Mount of Olives, he was asked three different times if he knew Jesus.  His response? 

"He began to curse and he swore to them, 'I don't know the man!'"  Matt 26:72

That sounds like a guy who was a bit unstable to me, a man who couldn't be counted on.

As I thought this weekend about what I'd been reading about Peter, I was amazed at the turn-around he made after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension.  In Acts, Peter and John were threatened by the officials and ordered to stop teaching about Jesus, but Peter's reply?  

"We can't help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Acts 4:20

The polar opposite of his response to the folks in the courtyard.  Why didn't he say that then?

Maybe the change came when he saw Jesus die on the cross.  Maybe the resurrection did it for him.  Or maybe it was the power that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit brought, after their encounter in the Upper Room at Pentecost.  Somewhere along the way, Peter made a conscious decision to change.  To not let the guilt of his past or his tendencies to fail, affect what God was calling him to do.  All of a sudden, this guy was solid.

But wait a minute.  Didn't Jesus say he would be?  The first time Jesus met Peter, long before any of these events I just described took place, Peter was going by his given name, Simon.  Jesus changed that right away, telling him that he was henceforth to be called Cephas, which, translated, is Peter, or ROCK.  You don't get much more solid than that.  So Jesus saw the end from the beginning.  He knew that this wishy-washy guy would turn out to be solid as a rock.

Another thing that struck me was the way the crowd responded to Peter and John when they were preaching, as recorded in Acts 4:13,
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." 
Wow, unschooled, ordinary men. I feel so unprepared and ordinary at times, like I'm underqualified for the vision God's given us in this life as missionaries. But if someone can look at me and take note that I've been with Jesus, if they see my courage and are inspired in some way to follow Jesus, okay.

I was very encouraged by being reminded of Peter's shortcomings and failures, and how Jesus called him out despite this and used him in the work.  

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