Peter was one of Jesus’s most beloved disciples: a confidant, a part of Christ’s inner circle and a powerful speaker, but ironically, the most impulsive and hot-headed. We would describe him today as having “no filter.” Personally, I know a handful of these individuals; I birthed one of them. Maybe that’s why I find Peter such an intriguing character to study. As we walk through the New Testament, we see his impulsivity collide with his profound love for the Savior, and we realize that he could have possibly loved Jesus more deeply than any of His other followers.
In today’s culture, we might say that Peter had a touch of ADHD, that he was a little deficient in the dopamine department, or that he simply “called it how he saw it.” Whatever the case, the man Jesus renamed “rock” was a pivotal figure in the New Testament and played an enormous role in the origin of the Christian church. His mouth got him into trouble on more than a few occasions, and he was forced to learn some extremely hard lessons while he walked with Christ. We see a few instances where Peter’s personality could have been considered a weakness but in reality was of great value to the cause of Christ.
Possibly the most well-known example, Peter was the only disciple who was willing to step out of the boat and onto the water with Jesus (Matt. 14:22-33). Whether he was acting on impulse or faith, he simply did it without hesitation. Only after he had time to think about it did he begin to sink. His human nature kicked in, and he considered the natural consequences of jumping out of a boat directly into the storm. When Peter turned his eyes away from Jesus and towards the storm, he froze.
I wonder if his impulsive responses were motivated, not by foolishness but by an incredibly profound love that he trusted above any fear or doubt. A reflex, if you will. His human nature compelled him to speak (or do) what he felt in that moment, but when his failures came to light, he punished himself more than anyone else possibly could. However, Jesus knew Peter’s heart and understood that the tenacity in his spirit would drive the growth of the early church.
Another very familiar example of Peter’s impulsivity was when he denied Jesus three times as Jesus had predicted he would (Matt. 26:69-75). After Jesus’s arrest, Peter followed the group at a distance to the high priest’s house and waited. Upon being approached by a servant girl, he denied his association with Jesus; another girl recognized him shortly after and he denied Him once more. Again he was recognized, at which time he denied Jesus for the final time before the rooster crowed. He agonized over this with bitter tears of regret. Perhaps the shock of Jesus being taken and the other disciples fleeing from the scene caused Peter’s “fight or flight” instinct to kick in; maybe self-preservation was the only thing his human brain could register at the moment.
Isn’t that just like us? Circumstances force us into defense mode, and we simply can’t think clearly. Our minds can only process so much trauma at any given moment. We all know that Peter had no intention of denying Christ to those who questioned him, and I truly believe the remorse that overtook him was almost unbearable. In true Savior fashion though, Jesus later forgave Peter and recommissioned him—a reminder that he may have let himself down, but redemption…oh, such sweet redemption.
For all that Peter did wrong, he did an incredible number of things right. His growth from all those impulsive decisions and brash remarks became evident in the famous sermon where 3,000 people were saved after the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:41). His boldness, fervor, and unrepentant devotion to the Savior made him the “rock” that Jesus said he would be. Peter would never apologize for following Christ, and as a result, he ignited a fire inside the early Christians. I believe that for every ounce of remorse he had over the mistakes he had made, he replaced a hundredfold with the message of forgiveness and love. Agape love, not self-serving love. The kind of love that would lead him to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy of being compared to Jesus even in death.
Simon Peter was indeed a unique character, and I personally can’t wait to meet him in Heaven one day. The depth with which he loved the Savior was his driving force in life. He understood what it was like to have the most epic failure humanly possible and be forgiven. He did not underestimate the power it took to be forgiven in such a manner and spent the remainder of his life proclaiming it. I want to be like Peter…with a filter, of course.
Featured Image by Linus Sandvide