Recently I spoke to our women’s volleyball team as part of our semester launch for Pursuit. Our theme this semester is Pursuit and our speakers will take turns presenting ideas on different themes scripture reveals around pursuing Jesus and how God pursues us. This was my quick attempt at presenting the idea that even in Jesus’s presence we still need to seek the truth.
Peter was the first disciple called by Jesus. We meet him first in Matthew 10:2.
He was not only one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, he was one of the inner circle of 3. Peter is the disciple who walked on water with Jesus, healed a crippled man, and cut the ear off the Roman soldier when Jesus was taken away from the Garden of Gethsemane to be crucified. The interesting thing for me is, as close as Peter was to Jesus, he often missed the mark.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are jthe Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
Jesus Foretells His Death
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Peter moves within the same conversation with Jesus moving from stating exactly who Jesus is…the son of God, to forbidding Jesus to die. This isn’t the only time Peter missed the full story. Right before Peter cut off the soldier’s ear he had been sleeping when Jesus had asked him to keep watch for him. (Matthew 26:40) In fact, Jesus had tried to wake Peter 3 times prior to his impulsive move of protection too late. I think the slicing of the ear was actually Peter proving himself to Jesus from a prior conversation. Proving he would not betray Jesus. At the last supper, a few hours prior to this scene in the garden the following conversation must have rattled Peter.
Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BESCATTERED.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
Peter had said he would die for Jesus and attacking a Roman soldier was a sure fire way to make that happen. I think Peter’s intentions were great. He loved his friend and leader dearly, and he wasn’t ready to let go. But the thing is, Peter didn’t understand the whole story. He was only focusing on what he understood logically. He wasn’t pursuing the whole truth.
Matthew 26:69-75 continues Peter’s story.
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
I think Peter wept partly because he realized that not only was Jesus right about Peter denying him, but Peter wept because he realized that Jesus was speaking accurately about the future. For Peter, the realization of who Jesus was took time. Even though he had verbally stated correctly who Jesus was, Peter did not fully grasp the truth of his words, and because of that when Jesus needed his friend the most, Peter failed Him.
One last encounter with Peter I want to quickly explore is found in John 21:12-17
Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus *came and *took the bread and *gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.
Peter had experienced enough of Jesus to be able to answer Jesus with a firm “yes I love you Lord”. He had pursued truth enough to know that following Jesus was worth the risk of death. If you remember, back in the first section I mentioned Matt 16 Jesus tells Peter “Upon this rock I will build my church upon you” Jesus knew Peter did not fully understand what was being explained…. Jesus knew Peter would act impulsively….Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, and yet He also knew Peter would live up to his newly given name and would become the rock the church needed.
So this semester we are going to take some time to explore different ways we can Pursue Jesus more fully. I love that Peter was one of the disciples. His impulsive behavior and deep misguided loyalty are characteristics that are true of many people who believe in God. We all begin with a belief that is explained by someone else, and we may not get it right the first time. The cool thing is, that just as Jesus gave Peter a chance to replace every denial with a response of “Yes Lord, I love you” He gives us the chance to fully understand who He is when we take the time to Pursue Him.