By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
We have four sons and a daughter, who amaze us by the ways their personalities have demonstrated themselves since they were infants. As adults we still see those same traits.
Last weekend, the second son cautioned everyone not to go down to the creek because they’d had flooding and footing was unstable. The youngest who’s always optimistic and sees an angle, suggested a floor mat would work to get them closer. The third sat and observed everything, reserving comment until later. And predictably, before we’d hardly missed him, the oldest had been to the creek, the bank collapsed under him, and he returned covered with mud and water.
One character in the Bible has fascinated me, partly because I see myself in him but mostly because he illustrates the work of the Holy Spirit in a human personality. Peter was a fisherman, brash and outspoken, one of the first to join Jesus’ group of disciples. Andrew had spent part of a day with Jesus, and the very next thing he did was to go bring his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter)” (John 1:42).
Throughout the next three years Peter was in the inner circle of followers, involved in a number of notable occurrences. He was there when Jesus came walking toward them on the water (John 6), and it was he who jumped out of the boat and had to be rescued when he took his eyes off his savior. He was present at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9), and oblivious to the meaning of the event suggested they start right away building a temple on the spot. He refused to let Jesus wash his feet until rebuked, then wanted to have everything washed (John 13).
The most poignant episode occurred the night before Jesus’ crucifixion which is recounted in all four Gospels. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Prior to that, Jesus had foretold, “’This very night you will all fall away on account of me’” but Peter retorted, “’Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will’” (Matthew 26:31, 33). The pride and impulsiveness with which he’d been born kicked in during times of crisis. Luke’s account has more details than the others, including the note that Jesus restored the ear chopped off by his disciple.
Peter would have fought valiantly had the occasion arose, but standing outside the door he was brought down by the accusation of a little girl. Luke observed after the denial, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. … And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61, 62).
The great thing is that Jesus knew all about Peter even before they met. He knew the strengths that Peter’s courage and action would bring to the church. With the modifications bestowed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, his brokenness would be healed and he would be restored and empowered to communicate the Gospel. No matter our personality – or our past failures – Jesus can turn our weaknesses into assets for his kingdom.