I have been studying a bit on the disciples this week and noticed how important Peter was to the story in the gospels and to the New Testament church. He was called the “Rock” by Jesus and takes a high position and is a frequent character in the stories of Jesus and the disciples. When I was a kid, we were asked once in Catholic school to identify a favorite disciple. Not knowing too much about them, I picked Peter. He seemed like he was the one in charge and took control of situations — I liked that! I also vaguely knew he had some major shortcomings. But that didn’t bother me as much.
But who was he? What made him so special or so important? As JI Packer notes, Simon Peter was a man of contrasts. In one place we read about him immediately responding to the call of Jesus to follow him — he jumps up, leaves his fishing business and life behind and obeys. And when Jesus asks him, “Who do you say I am?” Peter confidently replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Not too long after however, we see that he tries to rebuke Jesus (you know, the Son of God!). He later tells Jesus not to wash his feet; when Jesus tells him that it is necessary, Peter shoots back, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” And on their last night together, Peter promises never to deny Jesus, assuring him that though the others may fall away, Peter never would. Hours later, he does just that — three times. This “volatile, unpredictable temperament often got Simon Peter into trouble” (Packer). Jesus called him the Rock; he was anything but. Peter learned the hard way that his enthusiasm was not enough to make him faithful.
I remember being drawn to the little I knew about Peter, and the older I have become, the more I have realized I am a bit like him. Looking back, I wonder if I subconsciously picked him because I identified with him. Nevertheless, it now saddens me to think that in some other world or other time I may have fallen away as well, learning the hard way that my own enthusiasm would not be enough to make me faithful. Just like Peter, I would need someone to help me do that. Jesus makes it clear to Peter that He needed to be reinstated (more on that in the sermon this weekend). But he also needed to see a picture of the future. God knows that one of the keys to becoming faithful — remaining true and loyal to God — is to know and be reminded of the end. Knowing where we are headed can steel our nerves where we currently are. That is why Jesus tells Peter to brace himself for the humiliation he will receive at the end of his life (cf John 21:18-19). That is why Paul encourages the church in Thessalonica to not be ignorant of the Day of the Lord, for it will help them “keep awake and be sober.” And it is why the vision the Bible lays out for our future with God on a remade Earth and Heaven wed together can be life-giving even now.
So let us, in an effort to become faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, ponder and meditate upon the picture of the future which God’s Word has laid out for us. Let us remember that though these days may be difficult, and our lives not as pure and holy as we would like them to be, we have a future that looks like this: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… (and) He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4). These words, and others like them, if we consider them and meditate upon them, will with the Holy Spirit produce in us a faithful and loyal spirit, to the glory of His name.