19. Journey to the cross: Peter’s good intentions

Peter was one of Jesus’ “favored” followers. He was chosen to be one of the inner Twelve apostles who stayed with their Teacher continually during His three-year ministry. He is known affectionately as “foot-in-the-mouth” Peter, because of the many times the gospel writers testified about his bold (and sometimes foolish) intervention into various situations throughout his journey with Jesus. 

But Peter was bold in other ways as well. For example, he was the only one of the Twelve who had enough courage to step out of the boat onto the turbulent lake and attempt to meet Jesus as He walked on the water toward them …

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

“’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

“’Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 (Matthew 14:26-34, NIV)

*   *   *

Peter was also reprimanded by his Teacher numerous times. For example …

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’

Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'”  (Matthew 16:21-27, NIV)

*   *   *

But even though Jesus seemed incredibly harsh toward Peter, it was for good reason. He knew that His dear friend was destined to go through some terrible bouts of emotional and physical suffering later in his life, and there was only a short span of time to impress on him the importance of thinking like God rather than like a human!

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to paraphrase what happened with Peter after he was rebuked by Jesus.

  • During their time together in the upper room where Jesus and His Twelve commemorated the Passover seder together, the Savior foretold that all of His “flock” would soon scatter and leave Him. Peter boldly vowed that he would never “fall away” from dedication to His Teacher. But Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him THREE times. (Matthew 26:31-35)
  • When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant! Jesus rebuked him again and miraculously healed the man’s severed ear.  (Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11)
  •  At that point, Peter ran away with all the other disciples. But he and John followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. John (a.k.a. “another disciple”) was allowed into the inner courtyard because he was known to the high priest. But Peter remained outside at the door. While he waited, he was asked TREE times if he was a follower of Jesus — and he denied it! (John 18:1-27)

The gospel writers didn’t record where Peter went from there. He is not specifically mentioned as one of the individuals who stood at the foot of the cross throughout Jesus’ crucifixion. But John did write about what happened AFTER the Son of God was raised from the dead. That’s because he wanted us to know that, despite Peter’s blunders, Jesus still loved him and was willing to forgive his lack of courage during the most challenging  part of their journey to the cross. 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Read John’s description of the scene between Jesus and Peter by the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection (John 21), and connect the dots between Peter’s THREE denials and Jesus’ THREE declarations of forgiveness and commission of service.

A blessed Easter to you!

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