“Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." – Matthew 14:28-33 (ESV)
Meet my friend Peter. I call him my friend because, even though we are separated by culture, language, continents and oceans and a span of two millennia, I feel as if Peter and I have spent a lot of time together over the years and have quite a bit in common. While I find all of Scripture amazing (and, being the very Word of God, how could it be anything less?), I am most riveted by (and to) the accounts involving the apostle Peter. Why? Because I can relate to him.
There are so many lessons to glean from Peter’s life and ministry. (Indeed, the Lord once blessed me with the opportunity to develop and (twice) teach an adult ed class at church called “Flawed Yet Chosen: The Life of Peter.” I hope to have the opportunity to revise and teach it again someday, in some forum.) Peter is, in one sense or another, every man. I think anybody who reads Scripture’s accounts of Peter’s life can find some aspect of this fisherman turned apostle and say, “Yeah, I can relate to that.” But, be warned: it is also easy to find great fault in Peter. When we do so, we do it at our own peril, for it often unearths our own hypocrisy – no matter how deep it may be buried.
Say what you want about my friend Peter, but I will tell you this: he loved Jesus. You have to admire his zeal. Peter’s problem is the same as mine. And yours.
Peter was human.
Sometimes that zeal came out as brashness. Not braggadocio, mind you. Just thoughtless excitement. (Perhaps “rashness” is a better word than “brashness,” although I believe the swashbuckling ear episode in the garden of Gethsemane illustrates both.) Peter often exemplifies Paul’s later exhortation to Timothy for the need for preparation, being ready “in season and out” (2 Timothy 4:2). But, in Peter’s defense – and I often find myself coming to my friend’s defense, even though he really doesn’t need it – at the time of the gospels, none of the disciples were ready. And, just like all of us, Peter’s life experience education was just what he needed. How else would he have been able, later in life, to write:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:8-11 (ESV)
These are the words of a man who had seen inside the lion’s watering mouth, noticed the blood-stained teeth, smelled the enemy’s baited breath. It is a lesson Peter did not learn quickly, or easily. But, who among us learns life’s most valuable lessons quickly or easily?
All that being said, I’d like to park the blog at Matthew 14 for awhile. This is one of the central episodes in Scripture involving my friend Peter. And it is a rich vein of wisdom for all of us. So let’s grab our mental pick axes and mine from these verses for a while. Time to dig deeply and see what God reveals to us through His Word, and through the apostle Jesus called “the Rock.”