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Having a Peter Moment

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John 21:18 – 22

18          “Truly, truly, I say to you [Peter], when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.

19     Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he [Peter] would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to [Peter], “Follow Me!”

20     Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; {the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”}

21     So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”

22          Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”[1]

And now, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”[2]

As I have had the privilege of studying, teaching and preaching the Bible for many years now, I’ve found that my two best sources of sermon material are Jacob in the Old Testament and Simon Peter in the New Testament. 

Like Jacob, Simon Peter is a gold mine of sermon material.  Pretentious, vociferous, sometimes bumbling and very much “a reed in the wind,” Christ nonetheless prophesied that Peter would be the rock upon which He would build His church. 

I can draw a lot of inspiration from Peter due to his incredible spiritual maturity.  Look at Peter in the hours before the Crucifixion and compare him to the Peter immediately following Pentecost if you want to see a Biblical one-eighty.  The same Peter who denied Christ pre-Crucifixion delivered a sermon immediately post-Pentecost that saved “about three thousand souls.”[3]  Through Acts we see even more of a “maturing” of Peter in his faith-walk.  The change exhibited by Peter in the Gospels and into Acts is dramatic enough, but the increased maturity of faith from Acts into his own writings in 1 & 2 Peter is even more dramatic.

But in the Gospels, Simon Peter is shown as being an apostle just like all the other apostles with only a dim view of Christ and His mission.  Peter was even a member of Christ’s “inner circle” that witnessed the Transfiguration.  But even all the miracles and teachings of Christ did not prevent Peter from fleeing Gethsemane early Friday morning as Christ was taken into custody.

When told by Christ that one of His own would betray Him and all would flee, Peter emphatically stated that even if the others fled, he would stay with Christ until the death.  

We all know the story.  Christ tells Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed.  Peter again states his intent to stay with Christ to the death.

But when the going got tough, Peter ran like everyone else.  Not only did he run, but he denied Christ three times just as prophesied. 

After the Resurrection, John 21 tells the story of a “power breakfast,” a meal covenant as I tell my Disciple students, between Christ and a half-dozen or so of the Apostles. 

After breakfast, Jesus turns to speak to Peter.  I can visualize the scene.  It’s early morning.  The rising sun is reflecting off the Sea of Galilee.  Peter along with John, Thomas and other Apostles are comfortable following a good meal and secure in the knowledge that they are once again with Jesus.

But in the comfort following the “meal covenant,” Jesus wants to be reconciled with Peter, or maybe it’s Jesus who wants Peter to be reconciled with Him.  And following reconciliation comes Peter’s re-instatement.

So now as described in John 21, Peter is re-instated by Christ.  And as part of the re-instatement, Peter is told that he would die a martyr’s death to glorify God.  Peter immediately asks Christ by what death is John to die.  Christ replies, “What is that to you?  You follow me!” 

Peter is still very much the pre-Pentecostal or “Gospel” Peter here, wanting to know “what about him?”  Even though just re-instated, he wanted to know “why me?” or “Why not him?” or “Why not him too?”

Peter is “having a Peter moment.” 

While I was living in Miami, I heard a minister tell the story of one of his seminary instructors discussing the “Peter issue.” This seminary professor described it as “having a Peter moment.” 

Before we feel too smug with Peter having a moment of laxity named after him, let’s remember two things:  (1) Peter was a human and (2) so are we.

He wants to be a good Disciple and follow Christ, but the worries and fears of this world get in the way, even immediately following his reinstatement.

“The Call” went out to Peter as it did for all the Apostles, but in Peter’s case (as with most of the Apostles) that Call would be a final appointment to a cross or other cruel death.  (John incidentally is believed to be the only Apostle who died a natural death.)

From these few verses, many points can be made, but I’ll discuss two key points right now, one easier to take than the other.

The first point is that The Calling is fundamentally the same with us today.  We all have our own gifts, and we all have our own unique, individual calling.  One goes on a missionary trek; another stays home and teaches Sunday school.  Either way, God in His infinite wisdom finds a way to prepare the Called person for his or her duty.  Moses was not ready to lead Israel out of Egypt the moment that God appeared as a burning bush, and Peter was not ready to tend Christ’s sheep either.  Regardless, both performed miracles.  God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the Called.

The second point is a little harder to swallow.  If a person’s call is different from my own (and it is!), then I need to remember that that person’s Call is his or her own just as mine is my own.  God’s plan for him or her may also involve me or it may not involve me.  In fact, God might want me to keep my nose out of it completely!  Either way, I certainly should not compare myself to that other person.  That other person’s gifts (and method of qualification) may be greater or less; his or her Call is probably different, and we both should keep focused on God and our own Calling and not comparing ourselves with each other.

I’ll find myself occasionally sitting opposite a certain man in a meeting at work.  He’s tall and good-looking, on the fast-track career path, husband of a dynamic, successful career woman, father of two beautiful children, successful in his profession – I hate him. 

Of course I don’t hate him, but the point is this: it is all too easy to compare myself (favorably and unfavorably) with others.  And whenever I catch myself doing so, I have to recognize that I’m “having a Peter moment.”  And then I hear Christ’s words to Peter: “What is that to you?  You follow me!”

Father, we come to You again at the close of another session of this ______________.  We acknowledge Your Sovereignty and Holiness.  We acknowledge our own sinfulness and frailty.  We have come here this day as always based upon The Call that we have received from You, and we ask Your presence with us now and in the future as we answer that Call.  Be with us as we do Your work, and we ask travel blessing upon us all as we return home and faith-walk.  Be with us as we re-enter the world that can be adversarial.  Help to stay focused on You and Your Call without comparison of ourselves to others.  All this we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.


[1]New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. John 21:18-22.

[2]Ibid., Psalm 19:14.

[3]Ibid., Acts 2:41b

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