I think Peter gets too much criticism for his proclamation at the last supper to Jesus. As he boldly makes his claim for fidelity to Jesus before Jesus goes to the cross, we often mock his confidence, his pride, his presumptuousness, etc…
There’s a part of me, however, that identifies strongly with Peter.
I think Peter loved Jesus very much. Remember when Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die for the people, Peter was the one who objected among the disciples. And even after Peter did deny Jesus three times, he was the one by the fire weeping in complete brokenness (Mark 14:72). He was deeply broken by his actions towards Jesus.
What Peter experienced in this moment at the last supper is what I called a “failed love attempt”. It is the attempt of the human heart to say to God, “I will love you God!!!”, and when met with our brokenness and our character, we sometimes fall flat on our faces. I don’t know how many times I’ve been there with Peter by the fire, breaking down and weeping at how my actions didn’t show love to God, but the very opposite.
There’s insight into the heart of Jesus in Luke’s account which is very encouraging. Jesus is encouraging Peter prior to Peter’s proclamation and Jesus says to him, “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.”
The two things I underlined really touch my heart this morning.
“Simon, simon”…this is such an intimate call for Simon. He’s not scolding Peter for his imminent failure–Jesus already knows he is going to fail him. He still directs his love for Peter.
This shows me that Jesus has such a tender affection for us before and after our failed love attempts. He looks at me when I say “I love you God!!” and is so moved by every step I take of love for him, even if it results in “failure.” This is the God we worship. One who is moved by our little itsy steps of love towards him. Peter tried to take a leap of love only to fall flat on his face–still, Jesus loved him dearly.
“I have prayed for you”… Amazing…Jesus actually prays for us. In fact Jesus actually cheers for us. He is rooting for us to succeed and win in life. In our love for God, we are like children wanting to show our dad proud by showing him what we can do. “Look at me dad! Look at me dad!” And whether we fail or not, Jesus is always praying for us, interceding that we would be better people. And in Simon Peter’s case, he did turn out to be a better person.
He would end up being the leader of the early church that shook the 1st century nations. And at the end of his life, he would perform his vows that he made to Jesus at the last supper, as he himself would also be crucified on the cross for Jesus1.
Peter’s love would be strong after his failed love attempt because God would be the author and perfecter of Peter’s faith and love.
How does God respond to us when we fail in the act of loving Him? He still loves us soooo dearly, and is always cheering for us to succeed no matter the outcome.
Father, help me to know that no matter how many times I fall on my face in trying to love you, you love me dearly like your child. That you have such a tender heart for me. Thank you that you cheer me on and you are so moved when I make such decisions of love for you. Thank you that you are a kind and gracious Father. Amen.
From Fox’s Book of Martrys. Can be accessed here: http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe/martyrs/fox101.htm ↩