Luke 22: 54-55
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.
On our way following Jesus today, let’s consider what we can learn from Peter. He was a hard working fisherman, in tune with the rhythms of water, wind and seasonal fish migrations, a man without much book knowledge but plenty of practical knowledge. He was outspoken, the first one to publicly say that Jesus was the Messiah. He was a man of action who, when faced with Elijah, Moses, and Jesus enveloped in a cloud of God’s presence on the mount of transfiguration, decided to get busy building shelters so they could all stay awhile. Some have interpreted him as impulsive or reactive. He was the one who drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus. He was the first to defend his Lord and friend. He was also the one who told Jesus at the Last Supper that Jesus would never wash his feet. Then, when Jesus told Peter that he could not enter the Kingdom unless he let Jesus wash his feet, Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my whole body, Lord!” When Peter was in, he was in all of the way! He held nothing back. When Peter was wrong, he was wrong all of the way, always willing to risk making a fool of himself to follow who and what he was passionate about.
In this part of Peter’s story, however, we see him waffling, his bold knees shaking in their attempt to follow his Lord and friend to the cross. He had proclaimed earlier that day that he would not abandon Jesus even if it meant his death, and here he was denying that he knew Jesus at all. Yet, his courage still showed itself, for he was the only disciple who followed Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest to see what was happening to Jesus. This put him at personal risk. Peter was a complex blend of great courage and great fear. What a compelling character!
One thing I think we all can learn from Peter as we follow Jesus is to be willing to risk failure, to risk making fools of ourselves for Jesus. In our highly managed way of life in 21st century America, we have oodles of research studies that predict the outcomes of many of our decisions. We spend a great deal of time worrying about safety and protection. Sometimes these ways of thinking seep into our faith. We want to see if we can manage God, plan for positive outcomes, and minimize the risk of failure. Yet if the lives of the disciples are any indication, life with Jesus is one unpredictable, miraculous, risk-filled adventure! And while they fail time and time again, the grace of Jesus hangs in there with them, restoring them, strengthening them, and equipping them more deeply with each failure for the great ways God would use them in the future.
It is powerful to see how Peter’s story develops after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is forgiven for turning away from Jesus. He is commissioned by Jesus to become one of the primary leaders of God’s people as the Church is born in Acts. He ends up dramatically impacting the eternal lives of many people for the Kingdom of God. Peter tried and failed and repented and tried again by God’s grace, and was used in powerful ways by God! May God give us grace to risk failure to follow Jesus! What is Jesus inviting you to do that your fear of failure may be telling you not to do? Do it!