Simon was a regular guy. A fisherman. Not educated much. Not much to offer. Yet Jesus called him to be one of his disciples.
It’s remarkable that Jesus renamed Simon “Peter.” The rock. Something immovable, something unshakable, something reliable. But in many ways, Peter wasn’t a rock. He wasn’t reliable when he thought Jesus needed him to be.
In Caesarea Philippi, Peter got Jesus’ identity right. He nailed it:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Peter probably felt pretty good about himself after that. But soon after, Peter seems to lose the favor of Jesus:
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, chief priests and 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 things of God, but the things of men.”
Peter was not the rock he thought he was. I could just imagine Peter vowing to himself that he would never let Jesus down again.
At the Last Supper, after Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and predicts his betrayal, Peter tries to vow his allegiance to Jesus:
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
After dinner, Jesus went to the garden to pray, and brought Peter and two other disciples with him. At the garden, Jesus gave them one simple task:
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Three times Jesus asked them to stay awake and keep watch, and the three disciples, led by Peter, let him down in his time of need. Peter was not a rock. Yet Jesus gave him another chance.
When Jesus was being arrested, Peter tried to protect him, but Jesus rebukes him again:
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
How embarrassing for Peter. Maybe he wasn’t as favored as he thought he was. But he was probably determined not to let Jesus down again.
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
A dark time for Peter. He had betrayed his master. What Judas did was bad, but what Peter did was just as bad. He was not a rock. He was not reliable.
Jesus was arrested, mocked, interrogated, tortured, beaten, and nailed to a cross of wood. And Peter was nowhere to be found. Jesus was innocent, yet he was suffering the worst death anyone could ever experience. And Peter was not solid and reliable.
Jesus died and was buried. I could imagine that all Peter could think about was how much he had hurt, betrayed, and disappointed his master.
Many of you know the rest of the story of Jesus. The miracle of the resurrection! God had conquered death. Easter Sunday is the defining event of our faith!
After Jesus resurrected, he appeared to his disciples several times. One time, he appeared to them at the sea. A miraculous catch of fish. Peter jumped into the water and swam back to shore to see Jesus:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Why did Jesus give Peter another chance?
Why did Jesus give Peter another chance to be his disciple?
Why did Jesus give Peter another chance to serve him?
Why did Jesus forgive Peter?
Jesus gave Peter yet another chance–chance after chance after chance–because of his death and resurrection.
Jesus took the sin of the world–including Peter’s, and including mine and yours–and died the death we should have died. All we have to do is place our trust in Him, to believe, and we can be forgiven. Jesus rose from the grave, showing that he is God, showing that his words are reliable, and to show that we have new life.
Why does God give us another chance? Because of the death and resurrection of Christ. We are forgiven, justified, redeemed, because of Jesus. And this time, there is no fear of failure.
He is risen!