2405) Understanding Peter (2 of 2)

The Sorrow of St. Peter. Peter Goes Out Weeping Bitterly

The Sorrow of St. Peter, James Tissot  (1836-1902)


     (…continued)  We then see the fifth and final appearance of Peter in the hours before Jesus death.  We see him weeping bitterly.  These are tears of guilt, no doubt, but also tears of sadness and confusion.  His friend is in chains and may be executed.  The man in whom Peter put all his hope, now seemed beyond help.

     The disciples had no way of knowing how it would all unfold over the next couple days.  All they knew was that Jesus was dead.  This Jesus, who had said he was the Son of God, Savior of the world, the one who had promised them eternal life, was gone.

      Peter made many blunders.  We have more of his words in the Gospels than any of the other disciples, and the words are a mixed bag.  His words are sometimes filled with faith and power and conviction; other times he is sticking his foot in his mouth.  His mistakes were many, but because of them, we can relate to him.  Peter is so very human.

     “The person who never made a mistake, never made anything,” said Robert Louis Stevenson.  P. T. Barnum said, “Give me a man with brains enough to make a fool of himself.”  Well, that was Peter– impulsive, often wrong, but always doing something.  He wasn’t one to stand around.  He wanted to get going, even if it was in the wrong direction.  He was always asking naive questions or making rash promises.  He blundered often, even at the end.  But Jesus never gave up on him, and in time Peter did become the courageous leader Jesus had in mind for him to be.

     I am encouraged by Jesus’ choice of Peter as one of the disciples.  I can often relate to the way he would make a fool of himself by saying or doing the wrong thing.  We can all relate to that.  But Peter stayed with Jesus, and Jesus stayed with him.  And Jesus stays by us, too, fools and sinners that we are.

     Sometimes we might think faith would be easier if we could see Jesus like the disciples were able to see him.  But the darkness of Good Friday after Jesus died shows us how they also were left in utter hopelessness and confusion.  They had no way of knowing how it would all unfold over the next couple days.  All they knew was that Jesus was dead.  Jesus, who had said he was the Son of God, Savior of the world, and who had promised them eternal life, was gone.  Following Jesus had times of darkness and confusion and despair for them also.

     Peter’s courage faltered on that last day of Jesus’ life, but then not again.  He became the powerful leader of the new believers facing intense persecution.  Earliest accounts tell us that Peter himself was crucified in Rome.  He was crucified upside-down, we are told, because he said he did not deserve to die in the same way as his Lord.   Writing to encourage his fellow suffers he said (I Peter 4:12-16…19):

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name…  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.


Peter would fit this profile:

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