Simon Peter

Yesterday I listened to a devotion about the Apostle Peter. It drew my thoughts toward the drastic change in Peter’s life as told through Scripture. If one reads Luke and Acts together (as they were
both written by Luke and best read together), it is clear that Peter makes a gigantic character change between Luke 22.54-62 and Acts 2. In the Luke section, Peter cowardly denies knowing Jesus at all.
A servant girl recognizes Peter as one of Jesus’ followers and calls him out as he sits amongst a group of people in a courtyard after Jesus’ arrest. Peter says to her, “Woman, I do not know him.” Jesus
had predicted Peter’s denial, but Peter said it would never be, and it turns out that Peter utterly and completely fails to come through. He surely had a “can’t even look in the mirror” moment. The scene ends with Peter running out to weep bitterly over his failure.

The Peter we encounter in Acts 2 is a different man, however. This Peter tells it like it is. He is bold, courageous, fearless, outspoken, and driven, all in regards to his faith that Jesus is Lord. He comes across as literally unstoppable. In fact, Luke tells us in the early part of Acts, that people recognize God’s work through Peter to the point where they are just trying to get his shadow to fall on them when he walks by. Peter goes from weeping bitterly after denying his Lord to casting a holy and powerful shadow. Not only this, in terms of courage, he preaches publicly about Jesus even in the face of strict religious and political opposition, and this opposition had the power to imprison him, beat him, and even put him to death.

At some level, we all experience changes in our lives. For instance, I started jogging recently and it’s given me some extra energy. I’ve been drinking slightly less coffee, and I’ve felt less anxious. Some
changes are brought about by embarrassing errors. We can probably all relate to making a mistake either at work or interpersonally and vowing to think more before we talk, be kinder, more thorough,
etc. That reflects a change. Maybe a change comes from a random inspiration and resolution. Your life may become slightly more effective and intriguing by vowing to travel more, read more, or begin a new
hobby.

But I was reflecting on Peter and his change, and it goes well beyond a slight personal awakening. His shift is more than an “increase your effectiveness plan.” He didn’t get boldness of leadership, courage
of faith, and undying conviction just from hitting the treadmill or having his sleep apnea treated. His change is bigger than that. The cause of Peter’s magnificent change is his encounter with the risen Lord.

In the story of Acts, we see Peter as the Apostle Peter. In the early church, one of the qualifications for being an apostle was an experience and actual encounter with Jesus after his resurrection. Peter certainly had lived such experiences. My guess would be that after talking, listening, and eating with the resurrected Jesus, Peter surely gained a new perspective on death. Peter had tangibly seen that God could and would conquer the most frightening and disconcerting thing we know. So Peter before Jesus’ resurrection was gripped and bound by fear, specifically the fear of death and things that lead to death. After he experiences the resurrected Jesus, he is fearless in the full confidence of God’s sovereignty and power.

Most all of us are fearful of death and things that direct our thoughts towards death. We fear death with good reason. It is unknown territory and causes us grief and much sadness. Death brings with it loss and separation. And the fear of death also keeps us from being haphazard with the gift of life. But it also can subconsciously hold us back from being courageous, bold, and adventurous. In many ways, I envy Peter and the apostles. Peter has the advantage of actually seeing the power of the resurrection with his own eyes. Honestly, that would make boldness a bit easier. But Peter truly matches his experience in Christ with sincere life change and fully confident faith. And we are blessed to have the testimony of the eyewitness and the early church. We have the experience of the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and we have the guidance and strengthening of prayer. So, if you claim that the faith is true, it is your challenge to live increasingly confident in God’s total and ultimate victory. This does not come easy, and we are all probably in different places on the fearlessness scale; however, growing in the Spirit means trusting more and more in God and growing more and more in the courage of faith. I love the story of Peter. It reminds us that courage and strength is best found in the grace of God.

Guiding real people to embrace a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ