As I’ve been working on these Friday pieces, I’ve really come to appreciate Peter more. As brilliant as that “man out of time” Paul was… as loving and engrossed with Jesus as John was… as assertive as James was… for that matter, even as morosely skeptical as my boy Thomas was… I think I’m beginning to understand why Jesus chose Simon to become Peter, “the rock on whom I will build my church.” It’s because he was the most human of the disciples. And humanity was what Jesus came to redeem.
For all the evidence you need of this, look at Peter’s “story arc.” We already looked at one huge paradigm shift during what we could call “The Tale of Two Fishing Trips”—Peter’s transformation from someone who encountered the Son of God and could only see his sin to someone who encountered the risen Jesus and swam after Him as hard as he could. In between are incredible highs and lows, including the near-simultaneous events of Peter first grasping that Jesus was the Messiah, being informed that he would be the rock upon whom Jesus whom build His church, then being rebuked “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:13-23). You almost imagine Peter protesting, “Gee, all I was trying to do was protect you, Jesus.”
Peter didn’t yet understand that he was totally incapable of protecting Jesus. And he certainly didn’t grasp it either when he tried to protect Jesus again during His arrest in the garden. Jesus once more rebukes him: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Peter didn’t yet realize that his strength, like Jesus’, came from obeying his Father’s will.
Even after Jesus came back from the dead, Peter was still subject to relapses of fear and bravado, as is evident when in Galatians 2:11-21 Paul has to rebuke him for skulking away from the Gentiles that Jesus had already declared clean to Peter (Acts 10:9-47).
But eventually, Peter learns to stop forcing it, and trust that God will do what He intends to do when He intends to do it. He become “the Rock,” because he receives who The Rock really is. We see evidence of that in his final letter: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
We are lifetime projects. The sooner we realize it, the better. So let’s lay down our weakness, lay down our own tools that don’t work anyway, and allow Jesus to be the one who builds us up.