(April 18, 2023) Brian Bell challenges us to search our hearts deeply…
In the 19th century hymn usually known as Yesterday, Today, Forever the writer A.B. Simpson introduces the third verse with the words ‘He who pardoned eering Peter never need you fear.’
Whenever we think about Peter, that rather impulsive figure who was numbered among the twelve chosen by Jesus to be His first close followers, we are often drawn to his ‘eerings’… those times when he is considered to have erred in his words or actions.
It is Peter’s ‘eerings’ which make him a figure of hope for all of us who, like Peter, sometimes stumble over our words or actions as we seek to follow the Lord.
Let’s look at some of Peter’s eerings together… and as we (I include myself!) do so, allow the Holy Spirit to challenge us deeply if we too need hope.
I see this reflected in Peter’s well-intentioned words to Jesus: ‘Even if everyone else deserts you I never will’ (Luke 24:12NLT). When Jesus told Peter he would deny him that very night, Peter tried to strengthen his determination by saying, ‘No – even if I have to die with you I will never deny you’ (v35).
I believe Peter really meant those words – yet he failed! And, aware that we’re all very human, I dare to challenge us on a deeply personally basis…
Has your Christian experience seen you speak some well-intentioned words which you later found difficult to fulfil? Yes? Then Peter is a figure of hope for you, for me!
We are familiar with Peter’s determined effort to stay with Jesus during the sham trials to which Jesus was subjected before His crucifixion and how finally as he warmed himself at the courtyard fire. Despite his best endeavours Peter denied the Lord he loved three times!
Have you a memory of a denial at some stage of your Christian experience? Then here too, Peter is a figure of hope for you.
Although generally recognised as the leader among those early believers, following the Lord’s crucifixion Peter was also hiding away out of fear.
When the women came from the empty tomb to tell the men that Jesus was risen, even though Peter ran to the empty tomb to check it out for himself, he could not grasp what had taken place. Luke tells us that Peter ‘… went home again wondering what had happened’ (Luke 24:12NLT).
Has your Christian experience seen some shadow of doubt come over you? Then surely Peter is a figure of hope for you.
In his gospel record John tells us that after the resurrection it was Peter who led the other men back to their fishing. This step of Peter’s may not be seen as being indicative of an effective leader.
My reading of scripture has led me to the conclusion that even ‘chosen men’ such as Peter and the other disciples, also Paul and Barnabas, were not ‘perfect men!’ Like anyone else, they were capable of displaying strong emotions, even disagreement and making a mistake.
I am however encouraged and challenged by what I call the ‘Jesus attitude’ because while our Lord knew all there was to know about Peter (as He knows all about you and me). Jesus did not ‘disqualify’ Peter, the heart of Jesus was to recommission him!
- Has your Christian experience seen you take a wrong direction?
- Have you displayed strong emotions?
- Have you even had a disagreement, faced critical or judgmental attitudes?
Then here again Peter is a figure of hope for you!
I love these words from 2 Peter 1:16NLT, ‘… we were not making up clever stories.’
Despite those times in Peter’s experience which saw denial, doubt and a step backwards, Peter had seen and faithfully served the risen Lord to whom he now bears personal testimony in his letter when he is writing about Jesus’ power and His coming again.
Peter did not promote some health and prosperity message here! Most of the people he ministered to were very ordinary people with no great social status in that generation and for himself there was no comfortable retirement plan. His message, in the chapter above, was about having an experience of great confidence in the risen Christ and His returning from heaven (v19)! He even began the chapter encouraging us to ‘grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord’(v2) and tells of his own experience.
Our experience… we often talk about it as Bible-believing Christians having a ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus. And indeed, we have! However, our personal experience of the Lord Jesus will never match Peter’s.
But… he can be a source of encouragement to us as believers in our present generation to keep focused on Jesus – and one day we too will see our Saviour, our Lord, our King face to face!
Peter’s destiny is recorded in 2 Peter 1:14, ‘the Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that my days here on earth are numbered and I am soon to die.’ Peter knew he was going to join his Saviour.
I could follow a man like Peter, a straight talker with whose eerings I can empathise… but which are eclipsed by our experience of the Lord.
We must remember all Jesus accomplished for us as He gave Himself on the cross, that His precious blood was shed for the salvation of an eering man like Peter and also for you and me! That Jesus, God’s Son, was the only worthy one who suffered in your place, my place (John 3:16). After all, salvation is without price…
- What would I (or you) have to suffer and be worthy of it – nothing!
- What can I do to deserve it – nothing!
- What can I do to earn it – nothing!
- What amount can I give to buy it – nothing!
Augustus Toplady in his song ‘Rock of Ages’ sums it up with these words –
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling,
Naked, come to Thee for dress.
Helpless, look to Thee for grace,
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour or I die.
And He has! Our future, our destiny, like Peter’s is secure! Let the forgiven Peter be our figure of hope as we trust in our Lord!
Peter’s final words in 2Peter 3:18 are an encouragement to move on in our Christianity – ‘Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’
So… if you are struggling with an experience in which you may feel you have eered in some way, I pray your heart will be refreshed and encouraged as was Peter’s. And that we too will continue to reflect on our risenSaviour who loves us just as we are, who is now interceding for us in heaven (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). the Saviour who in His nature and character is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Be encouraged – the eering Peter is a figure of hope for all of us, as we also make a determined effort to keep following Jesus.
Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Brian describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’