For the four weeks leading up to and going beyond Easter, let’s take a look at the life of Peter. Because he’s so often at the center of both the brightest and darkest moments in the Gospels, he has always been a source of hope and inspiration for those endeavoring to follow Jesus.
In all four Gospel accounts, no one shows up more often than Peter.
John’s name appears 20 times – the same number as Judas Iscariot. John’s brother James gets 18 mentions, while Andrew (Peter’s brother) gets 12. Thomas, Philip and Matthew rate 10. The other disciples (Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and James, son of Alphaeus) all appear just three times.
Peter’s name, however, shows up a whopping 120 times. Whenever one of the gospel writers lists the names of the disciples, Peter always comes first.
Jesus declares him to be the Rock on which he would build his church. He headlines the activities of the earliest Christians in the first half of the book of Acts. Today his name adorns the largest cathedral in the world at the Vatican in Rome. Who knew that his namesake university would take down my alma mater in March Madness? Hands down, Peter is preeminent among all of Jesus’ apprentices.
But…and that word “but” absolutely brims with meaning…nobody failed Jesus more grievously than Simon Peter, son of John.
While all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) generously portray his courage and trust, they also reveal him to be intermittently bungling, confused, and fearful. When Jesus needs him the most, Peter delivers the least. After saying aloud three times that he has never even met the One to whom he has pledged his entire life, he dissolves into tears.
At that moment, Peter surely assumed his relationship to Jesus was terminated.
In a story that’s become legendary at IBM, a junior executive went out on a limb and lost the company more than ten million dollars.
The young man was called into the office of Tom Watson, Sr., Big Blue’s founder and CEO. Knowing what was coming, he cut right to the chase. “You’re calling for my resignation. Here it is. I resign.”
Watson replied, “You must be joking. I just invested ten million dollars educating you. I can’t afford your resignation.”
It’s easy to imagine Jesus’ disciples likewise wanting to walk away. From time to time the Bible reports that Jesus seems to have lost all confidence in them. “Are you still so dull?” he asks. “How long shall I put up with you?”
Peter and his comrades fail him in the Garden of Gethsemane. They fail him during his trial and crucifixion. They fail to believe the initial reports that his tomb is empty.
So when Jesus finally stands before them, incredibly real and alive, they know exactly what’s coming. “You’ve come for our resignations,” they’re thinking. “Well, here they are. We resign.”
To which Jesus answers, “You’ve got to be joking. I can’t afford your resignations. I just invested a resurrection in you.”
Right now you may be at the lowest point you can remember when it comes to the vitality of your spiritual life.
Don’t resign. Re-enlist.
Jesus is seriously committed to healing this broken world through ordinary, broken people.
Like Peter. And you. And me.