Sunday, February 2, 2014

Repeat Offender

by Tullian Tchividjian
No one in the Bible is more of a repeat offender than the apostle Peter, the so-called “rock” upon which the church is built. His consistent ineptitude is almost comic, or at least it would be, were he not also the one who Jesus appointed to be his chief representative.

As you may remember from Sunday school, Jesus called Simon (and his brother Andrew) while they were fishing by the Sea of Galilee. He immediately left his family business and followed the Lord. After he answered Jesus’ famous question, “Who do you say that I am?” correctly, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which means rock. Peter lived with Jesus for three and a half years, witnessed many miracles, and heard his teaching. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three (Peter, James, and John) and was clearly captivated by Jesus and his teaching. Peter was the one who asked Jesus to explain parables, and the one who asked for more clarification about forgiveness. He had given up everything for the Lord he deeply loved (see Matthew 19:27), and he loved his Savior more than he had ever loved anyone. And yet, his track record was abysmal.

A few bullet points from his spiritual resume:

- When Jesus told him to walk on water, Peter was afraid and sank. (Matt. 14:22–33)

- Peter tried to persuade Jesus that he would not have to die and received the following reply: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the – concerns of God but merely human concerns.” (Matt. 16:23 NIV)

- He fell asleep in Gethsemane three times, despite the explicit instructions of his sorrowful Lord, who asked him, “Could you not watch one hour?” (Mark 14:32–42)

- When the guards came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and Jesus rebuked him for it. (John 18:11)

- After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him three times, after being told by Jesus—in no uncertain terms—that he was going to do so. (Mark 14:26–31, 66–72)

Apart from his being the first to acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God, almost everything he did in the Gospels ended in a correction, a rebuke, or just simple failure. It is hard to imagine how to be a worse disciple than Peter, short of rejecting the faith entirely, once and for all. He could be relied upon to fail at doing God’s bidding, with one or two salient exceptions. Yet these exceptions were enough for Jesus to proclaim that he was the rock. Why?

It is no coincidence that Peter was both the weakest and the one who recognized who Jesus was. He could recognize the Savior, because he knew how much he needed one. His faith was directly tied to his failure. As one writer accurately put it, “The great and merciful surprise is that we come to God not by doing it right but by doing it wrong!”

This is proved by one of the most comforting (and probably overlooked) passages in the Bible. When the women find the young man minding the empty tomb on Easter morning, he gives them a message: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:7). Jesus names Peter specifically. That disciple who had seemingly done all in his power to ruin his relationship with Christ, and who had, only a few days before, denied even knowing him at all, was still going to receive a kept promise: “There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Though Peter was, and we are, ultimate promise-breakers, Jesus was, and ever will be, the ultimate promise-keeper.

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