Who would take someone who is a colossal failure and build their organization around that person?
Many of the great names in the Bible were failures. Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) was conniving and untrustworthy. Moses was a murderer. King David was an adulterer who turned into a murderer when he tried to cover it up. Paul presided over the execution of early Christians. And so on.
Then there’s Peter. An impetuous and uneducated fisherman, far from a religious scholar. This name that Jesus gave him, loosely translated from the Greek, is what we might say as Rocky. Whereas we might picture a boxer who got hit in the head too many times, Jesus said that he would build His church upon that rock.
And yet, Peter screwed up. Many times. Some of his most epic failures are memorialized for posterity in the Bible.
One such example is when he almost drowned trying to walk on water. What’s unfair about focusing on this failure, though, is that we overlook the fact that before he sank into the raging sea, he had actually taken a few steps on the water! Not to mention the fact that he had trusted Jesus enough to even try it. I think I would have stayed in the boat in the middle of that terrible storm.
But anyway, back to Peter’s failures. Probably the most famous example occurred during Holy Week, just when his best friend needed him most. I wonder whether more people know about his denial of Christ than everything Peter did after Jesus’ Ascension to give Christianity its foothold in the ancient world.
During Jesus’s final meal on (Maundy) Thursday, Jesus predicts that Peter will claim three times not to know Him that very night. Peter insists that he will never fall away, that he’ll stick by his Master even if he has to die doing it.
But we know how it plays out. Peter does, in fact, turn his back on the teacher whom he had bet everything was Israel’s Messiah. Why?
To be fair, most (if not all) of us would have done the same thing. If anyone denies it, Jesus probably has a prediction for him or her as well. After seeing what Jesus had endured so far, and having a sense for what was coming, who would raise their hand and say, “Count me in!”?
After the third time that he denied knowing Jesus, the rooster crowed, which awoke Peter to the reality that Jesus had been right. He ran away, weeping bitterly. Has anyone else failed God? I mean, besides Peter and me?
So why is this story in the Bible? If I were going to start a religion, I wouldn’t pick a guy to be the rock upon which I was going to build my church, then put a story on Facebook about how he had failed me! So why did God do effectively the same thing?
I think it’s to show us that it’s OK to have been afraid, to have forgotten that God is in control even when it seems like the world is crumbling. That no matter how badly we screw up, regardless of what we’ve done, God still wants to be with us. He wants to restore us and use us to bring heaven here on earth. Most of all, He wants us to spend a joyous eternity with Him. Fast forward in Peter’s story and this is exactly what happens. After His resurrection and after He made his buddies breakfast on the beach, Jesus pulled Peter aside and restored him three times. The same number of times Peter had denied Him. And Peter goes on to become the bedrock for Christ’s church. In fact, in the end, he lives up to his original commitment to Jesus, that he would die for Him.
I don’t think that Jesus is calling us to die for Him–not now, anyway–but He is humbly and gently asking us to live for Him, the way Peter did.
What does that look like, exactly? I don’t know, that’s between you and God. But even now, in the midst of this global pandemic, it still has everything to do with how God wired you. If He gifted you to be a teacher, then teach–even when you can’t be in the same room as your students for now. God will add technology into the mix with your great teaching skills and find a way to reach your kids. If God made you a great volunteer or encourager, now is your time to share that with the world! Same goes for those to whom God gave the gift of intercessory prayer. Or healing (thank you to all you Healthcare Heroes!). The list is as long as the names written in His Book of Life.
Bottom line: God made each of us with unique gifts, which He intended for us to share with the world. When He made us, he also knew we would screw things up more often than not, but that doesn’t disqualify us from bringing His love and goodness into the world. Imperfect people serving a perfect God. He gave us stories about people like Peter so we could see that, and in seeing, we would each do our part to make this world a more lovely place in Jesus’ name.