Simon Peter is so me
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." “Peter said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death." Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me."” Luke 22:31-34 ESV
And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, "Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:59-62 ESV
We all know the story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. At least, most of us have heard of it. This story is painful to read but it is so encouraging because it ends with Peter becoming one of the many disciples that ends up preaching the gospel to the nations, especially to the Jews. God healed and freed so many victims of sin and death through Peter. God used a guy like Peter to make His name known.
Here in Luke 22, there was only a few hours left until all of the sins of God's children would be redeemed from the bondage of sin and death through the death and resurrection of the Son of God. All the more desperate Satan was at this point.
Jesus knows this and tells Simon Peter that Satan has demanded to have him, like he did with Job. When Jesus says, "when you have turned again," He is implying that Simon Peter will fail Jesus. He also implies that Simon Peter will recover, and when he does, Jesus encourages him to strengthen his brothers.
Simon Peter is so zealous and radical. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? No there isn't but there is a danger of being overconfident in your own ability when you're as radical as Simon Peter.
To Jesus' warning and counsel, Simon Peter responds with vigour and refutes Jesus' claim that he would ever be 'sifted like wheat.' As a farmer shakes the wheat he gathered to separate all the useless material from the wheat that he wants, Satan was shaking, not just Peter, but all of Jesus' disciples' faith in the hopes that their faith may fail.
It is this that Simon Peter refutes; that his faith may fail. He responds to Jesus by declaring that he would follow Jesus wherever He may go, whether it be prison or even death!
Apparently, Simon Peter was not defeated by Jesus' last rebuke that involved Him associating Simon Peter with Satan himself (Matthew 16:23).
Other disciples were not like Simon Peter; boisterous, radical, willing to do crazy things. He was the second human being after Jesus to walk on water after all.
After Jesus was betrayed by Judas, taken away by the authorities, all of Jesus' disciples scattered like dust in the air. However, Simon Peter mustered the courage that he had within himself to follow Jesus, as he said so himself (I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death). But when a few ordinary people started to interact with him, it was soon evident that the courage, zealousness, radicalness that Simon Peter thought he had within himself was not enough to prove Jesus wrong.
Imagine how Simon Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." Imagine that moment when he locked eyes with Jesus as soon as it happened. The guilt and shame that he must have felt would have been enough to push anyone to deep depression or even contemplation to suicide.
Reflecting back on my own zealousness in the beginning of my walk with Jesus, I can so relate. Like Simon Peter, I come from a shame-honour culture as well. When shame hits and dishonour pounds on top of this, it is so so heavy on your heart. You just want to hide and hope this feeling of guilt goes away through a miracle.
I was also overconfident of my own abilities of godliness, just as Simon Peter was. At that time, I heard a variation of the gospel. One that said, Jesus had defeated sin and death on the cross, gave me His Holy Spirit, so with the power of the Holy Spirit, I could also defeat sin and death whenever it came knocking on my door.
How empowering and attractive this gospel sounds. It even sounds biblical!
However, with this version of the gospel, I had the power (of the Holy Spirit), I had responsibility and control to wield the power, I had everything I needed to defeat sin. When I failed, it wasn't God's fault, it was my own. I also went out and wept bitterly, just as Simon Peter.
The true message of the gospel, however, says that Jesus did indeed give me His Holy Spirit but through my union with Him, the Holy Spirit works in me to defeat sin in my life. I have no power over God the Holy Spirit! God the Holy Spirit has the power over me. He takes responsibility of me. He knows I am weak and helpless to sin. I know I am a sinner that is like the dry bones of Ezekiel that cannot live by itself (Ezekiel 37:1-14). My life is, after all, not my own, but God's!
Responsibility to defeat sin and death in and around me is God's responsibility. It's not just His responsibility, He is the only one that can do it! And He has done it once and for eternity through the death and resurrection of His Son and our Lord Jesus. It is His work and not mine. I am merely taking part in defeating sin and death through faith, a faith that was gifted to me, that which I did not even attain with my own strength and ability.
This is the encouraging message of the gospel message to me right now. Whether I live a righteous life or not, it does not depend on me.
Jesus knew Simon Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed that day. He knew in such detail how it would unfold. He knows in such detail how I will fail Him, how deeply and filthily I will fail Him before I can even predict or imagine. This is the omniscient God that I serve.
However, even though Jesus knew of Simon Peter's future failures, future daggers in Jesus' back, He prayed that His faith may not fail.
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I can imagine what Simon Peter was thinking when he locked eyes with Jesus after denying Him three times, but what about what Jesus was thinking?
At that moment, was Jesus disappointed at Simon Peter? Was He brokenhearted? Was He discouraged, or did He even regret choosing Simon Peter?
No, I believe Jesus, when He locked eyes with Simon Peter, He looked with an unspoken look that said, "Remember Peter. I gave you possession of the rock that I will build my church. I love you! I prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers!"
The Holy Spirit was already working in Simon Peter's heart. Even though Simon Peter went through a season of despair, of guilt and shame, he turned again. He failed even after that but he turned again. This was not through his own strength and ability, but solely through the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
I will fail Jesus today. But in those moments, I must remember, just as Jesus prayed that Simon Peter's faith may not fail, Jesus is interceding for me (Romans 8:24; Hebrews 7:25) that my faith may not fail, and if Jesus is interceding for me, I will turn back. I must be ready to strengthen my brothers and sisters when I do.