DAILY DEVOTION - APRIL 29
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Peter, an apostle by the grace of Jesus Christ...”
1 Peter 1:1a
Simon Peter is a character who gives hope to many of us struggling in our relationship with God. Passionate and zealous one minute, fearful and cowering the next, Peter’s highs and lows are on full display during his time as a disciple of Jesus. Perhaps I’m imposing my culture on Peter, but I imagine him as a hot-headed Italian who says with over-confidence, “Lord, me betray you? Forget about it!” But when trouble comes, it’s suddenly, “Jesus? Never knew the guy.” Peter is a wonderful example of how God uses broken people for his good purposes.
Peter, then called Simon, came to know Jesus through his brother Andrew. Andrew had been one of John the Baptist’s disciples. But when Jesus walked by and John proclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:3), Andrew appropriately went to follow Jesus. His first act was to find his brother Simon and exclaim, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). When Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, Jesus looked intently at him and renamed him Peter, or Cephas, which is “rock” in Greek (John 1:42). Subsequently, this new name would become Peter’s new identity in Christ.
Before becoming disciples, Simon and Andrew had been fishermen. However, Jesus invited them to follow him and become “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). They put down their nets, setting aside their lifestyle and livelihood, and followed him.
Along with James and John, Peter became one of Jesus’ closest disciples, being present for happenings the other nine were not always privy to. Along with the many miracles of the Messiah and lessons from a loving rabbi, Peter witnessed events like the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the transfiguration. Peter witnessed Jesus’ might, wisdom, and love.
While the disciples did not fully understand all Jesus’ teachings or purposes until after his ascension, we know that Peter recognized that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus called Peter “blessed” for this conviction, as the Father had revealed this saving knowledge to him. Jesus told Peter “I will build my church” upon this very truth as the rock, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). One would think that such a powerful promise would instill complete confidence not only in Peter but in all the disciples—after all, the Lord of the Universe is proclaiming to them that he will be victorious!
However, in the very next section in Matthew, Jesus revealed to his disciples that he must suffer, be killed, and rise again on the third day. Peter objected and rebuked Jesus’ plan (Matt. 16:21–23). Jesus returned Peter’s rebuke with one of his own, saying that Peter shouldn’t elevate his personal desires over God’s mission of redemption. Peter wanted to avoid sorrow and loss, but Jesus was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and endure the worst suffering in order to restore people’s relationship to the Father.
Now, before you think that Jesus was being harsh with Peter, remember that Simon Peter, as a Jewish man, would have been well-versed in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). Peter would have known that this servant, though innocent, would be “numbered with the transgressors” and would pour out “his soul to death” to make "intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). As much as Peter didn’t like it, this wasn’t some surprise proposal—this redemption plan had been foretold by the prophets. As Peter would later write, it had been laid out before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:20).
In the final days before his arrest, Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted permission to sift him “like wheat.” However, Jesus assured Peter that he had prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Then he commanded Peter that, after he returned, to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:31–34). Peter was confident he'd be willing to go to prison or even die for Jesus, but Jesus knew what was ahead—Peter would have to be returned because he would fall away. Jesus told Peter that, before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny him three times.
And that is exactly what happened! As soon as his third denial of “I do not know him” left Peter’s lips, the rooster crowed. Jesus looked at Peter, causing Peter to remember his words. Devastated and defeated, Peter went outside the city and wept. He had abandoned his friend, rabbi, and Messiah—Jesus.
For most people, that is where the story of a friend’s betrayal would end. But not for Jesus. Jesus had something amazing in mind for his friend Peter. After his death and resurrection, Jesus found Simon Peter fishing, having returned to his old life. But Jesus called Peter back to himself. He nourished Peter with breakfast and then Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Tend my sheep” (John 21:15–16). A third time Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And though Peter was probably an emotional mess by this time, he was able to utter this truth, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” So Jesus entrusted him one more time, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
For the three times that Peter denied Jesus, Jesus was reversing Peter’s shame and restoring Peter to relationship with him. Though Peter had counted himself finished with discipleship, Jesus reinstated Peter as an agent of the gospel. Jesus gave Peter a new charge—tend to the ones I love dearly. Shepherd my little lambs!
Jesus then foretold that Peter would go to unfamiliar places and even die in his work for Jesus. But this Peter, now renewed as an apostle, called by the grace of God, and charged with a lifelong mission was able to carry out Christ’s work, filled with a living hope!