One of the things I love about the Bible is that the heroes in it are so human. They were great men and women of faith, but they weren’t perfect. Only God is perfect (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23; Hebrews 4:15). That gives me hope when I mess up. If God can use them, then He can use me too.
Take Peter for example.
Who was Peter?
Peter worked in his family’s fishing business on the Sea of Galilee with his brother, Andrew, and business partners, James and John (Matthew 4:18-22). The four of them were disciples of John the Baptist, listening to him preach (John 1:35-42).
Scripture talks about his mother-in-law, so we know he was married as well. Jesus came to the house he owned in Capernaum to heal his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:5, 14). More than likely, the lady lived with Peter and his wife.
What was Peter’s role?
The day Peter began following Jesus, Christ gave him a new name.
He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
John 1:42 (NASB)
Peter means rock or stone. The Lord explained this new nickname later in Matthew 16:13-18.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (NASB)
Some people say “this rock” is Peter himself. Others say it’s the declaration Peter made about Christ. Regardless, this exchange with Jesus set Peter apart.
Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle. He was one of the three disciples with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
Peter was a highly respected Christ-follower and a leader in the early church. Yet, he was still a sinful human being.
Peter’s Fall From Grace #1
Scripture highlights two major mistakes of Peter. (If you’re not familiar with it, “fall from grace” is slang for the effects a person’s sin has on their reputation.)
The first happened immediately following Peter’s divine declaration of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Verses 21-23 continue:
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (NASB)
Ouch! Talk about a slap on the wrist! Peter went from being highly honored to the lowest of the low.
The good news is that Jesus used the moment to teach a better way. Look at verses 24 – 27.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (NASB)
Peter seems to have taken this to heart. The Bible doesn’t say how Peter died, but all outside sources agree that he was martyred (killed for his faith). Origen, an early church father, said that Peter was crucified. Since he felt unworthy to die like his Master (Jesus), he requested to be crucified upside down and was.
Peter’s Fall From Grace #2
This is the one I think haunted Peter the most.
31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. (Matthew 26:31-35 NASB)
Then Jesus was arrested and taken before the high priest for trial.
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75 NASB).
After that and Jesus’ death, the poor man was completely crushed in spirit.
Imagine Peter’s surprise when the women came back on the third day to report Jesus was alive! Luke records the reaction of the disciples following their report.
11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:11-12 NASB)
Then comes one of my favorite parts of Peter’s story. Listen to how Jesus reacted to him when they saw each other once again.
After Jesus appeared to His disciples twice in the locked upper room, Peter decided to go back to his day job. He went fishing. Jesus showed up onshore where they couldn’t recognize Him. He told the men how to get a miraculous catch. That’s when they recognized Him. Peter wasn’t willing to wait for the boat to make the return trip, so he jumped from the boat and swam ashore. Jesus had a fire going, so He and His disciples had an impromptu breakfast (John 20:19-21:14). Then comes the important part for Peter.
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:15-19 NASB).
Isn’t that great? Jesus helped Peter see that his commitment to Christ was still there. God could still use Peter and he had a special job to do. In fact, Jesus told Peter that he would be faithful to the end of his life. Wow!
I am out of time for today. Next time we’ll look at Peter’s third fall from grace. For now, think about this:
How does this apply to us?
Have you ever felt like you’ve messed up so badly that God could never use you again? You’re wrong!
God loves you! He still has a plan for you.
You are still His child.
Renew your commitment to love and follow Him.
Ask for forgiveness, then stop dwelling on the past.
Take the next faithful step today.
- Sin Alarm! What do you do?
- Worldview: Which Rainbow Are You Chasing?
- Is “Sin” Really A “Four-Letter Word”?
- Don’t Give Up! Part 1
- How do you worship God in the storms of life?
- What is Pharisee-ism? How do you know if it describes you?