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Peter & Grace, Part 1

Be honest. When you first saw the pairing of these title words, it most likely triggered thoughts of a couple—maybe even a love story. And, because this is a Christian ministry blog, you may even have had fleeting ideas that you are going to read about how God brought them together. Well, that’s exactly right! You will soon discover, though, that this story has a twist you may not be anticipating.
The narrative is centered around a love story—God’s love story—about a rough-around-the-edges fisherman and his life journey from the sea to salvation to sanctification. And just when he needs it most, he encounters amazing Grace.
Shortly after Jesus began his earthly ministry, he sought out and called specific men to follow, learn from, and carry out His teachings—to be disciples of THE way, truth, and life (John 14:6). One of the first to be recruited for this new vocation was a man called Peter. (Read the accounts of this calling in all four Gospels: Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18; Luke 5:1-11; and John 1:35-42). To describe Peter, I would say he was an extrovert, easily distracted, spontaneous, passionate, fun-loving, and very dependent on socialization. I believe his main love languages would have been words of affirmation and quality time.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Peter’s personality is easy for many of us to relate to—either you know someone like him very well, or you yourself are like him. Peter was a man with deep feelings about whatever he did. Yes, he was impatient and impulsive, but also extremely insightful. Peter’s emotional bent was his greatest strength and, ultimately, his greatest weakness. Let’s look at a few examples:
Following the narrative in Luke 5:1-11, Peter had just heard what may have been his first sermon, uttered from his own boat to a crowd gathered on shore to hear Jesus speak. Directly following this scene, Jesus asked Peter to let down his fishing nets for a catch. Though he initially argued (because he’d been fishing all night and caught nothing), Peter complied. When his nets filled to overflowing, he was immediately overwhelmed by the sense that he was in the presence of the Holy One exercising His divine power, and Simon Peter humbly acknowledged his sinful nature. Jesus responded with a call to follow Him, and without hesitation, Peter left everything and followed Him, beginning a new chapter as one of the first of Christ’s disciples.

For a moment—before getting distracted by the wind and taking his eyes off Jesus—Peter’s trust in Christ was resolute and admirable.

After walking with the Lord for some time, witnessing His miracles, and daily hearing His teachings, Peter, above all the other disciples, shows an extraordinary step of faith. In Matthew 14:22-33, we read that after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent His disciples to get into their boat and to go ahead to the other side of the sea without Him. During the night, a violent storm blew in (fairly common on the Sea of Galilee due to its geographical location). Jesus walked on the water to meet them on the boat in the middle of this squall. After an initial reaction of fear that they were seeing a ghost, the disciples were met with Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid.”

Peter responded with a faith-founded challenge, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” For a moment—before getting distracted by the wind and taking his eyes off Jesus—Peter’s trust in Christ was resolute and admirable. He knew that the One he followed was truly God incarnate.
This fact is further confirmed a time later when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” then, “Who do you say that I am?” It was again Peter—impetuous, passionate Peter—who responded with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” No hesitation, no doubt, and no inhibition in boldly proclaiming the truth was noted in his answer.

Now let’s visit, briefly, the rest of the story—the not-so-pretty aspects of a personality type such as Peter’s.

Luke 22:32 NKJV
But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.

Following the Last Supper, in which Jesus indicated that one of the disciples would betray Him, Jesus also talks directly to Peter to let him know that he will deny Him, the Christ, three times before dawn the next day. In the Luke 22:31-34 account of this dialogue, Jesus’ warning also comes with His declaration of interceding prayer on Peter’s behalf. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32 NKJV, emphasis added).
Not too long after this interaction, Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that His time is coming to die for the sins of mankind. When He got up from praying, He found his disciples fast asleep. His response, again directed at Peter (Matthew 26:40-41), was, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (emphasis added)
Before long, the chief priests, Pharisees, and soldiers bearing torches and weapons entered the garden to arrest Jesus. Peter, asserting his commitment to Christ, drew his sword and impulsively cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebuked him and miraculously restored the ear to Malchus (John 18:10).
Next, Peter was recorded as following from a distance while Jesus was bound, questioned, and accused before several other religious leaders. It was in the wake of these events that the prophecy that Peter would deny Jesus became a devastating reality (Luke 22:54-62).
After denying Jesus not once but three times, hearing the rooster’s crow, and being faced with the frailty of his human condition, the Bible tells us that Peter “wept bitterly” (Matthew 27:75). He knew he had blown it. He was in deep anguish over his own sinful nature—inconsolable and alone. But then, Grace entered the scene. At a time when no one and nothing (except the Christ that he had publicly rejected before men) could offer him hope from his despair, Grace came to the rescue.
In Psalm 30:5, we read that “weeping may tarry for the night; but joy comes with the morning.” Peter lived this reality. On the third day after the crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4), conquering the power of sin and bringing redemption to all who believe on His name (Romans 10:9).

In Mark 16, we read that the women who came to the tomb where Jesus was laid, to anoint His body with spices, were startled to find an empty tomb and a young man sitting nearby dressed in a white robe. This “stranger” immediately announced that Christ had risen from the dead and commanded them to “go, tell his disciples and Peter….”
Say what?
Peter was noted specifically in scripture to be one of the first to hear that Jesus was alive—raised from the dead, just as He said He would be! I can’t help but wonder if Christ’s earlier encouragement to him (see above, Luke 22:32) came to his mind. His faith had been tested, his confidence jolted, his sin nature revealed yet again, but in the end, Peter’s unrelenting belief in the Son of the living God won out. He had returned to the truth.

Anytime we see Peter’s name mentioned in the Bible following the resurrection, it is in relation to his loyal, faithful service to Christ in living out the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Peter experienced Grace in its purest form—unmerited favor, receiving what he truly had not earned or deserved.  And Peter never let us forget that message, as it is recorded in God’s inspired Word for posterity.

1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (emphasis added)

The Apostle Peter’s life and calling is a beautiful and very relatable picture of God’s grace, inspired by His eternal love.
Stayed tuned for next week’s blog, Peter & Grace, Part 2, when we dig deeper into the takeaways from Peter’s life that can encourage and challenge us today.
Author Bio:
Holly Varnum, Director of Curriculum Development at Reasons for Hope joined us September 2021 to launch curricular materials to support many of our media resources. With degrees in education, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration, she comes with over three decades of experience in working with teens and adults in camp ministry, teaching and administration, and curriculum writing (A Beka Book, Focus on the Family, and Answers in Genesis to name a few). God has provided her with a well-rounded educational perspective through service in Christian schools, charter schools, public schools, homeschooling, Christian camps, and local church ministry. She has been a classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator, camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, ladies’ Bible Study teacher, and conference speaker and looks forward to using her passion for God’s truth within the context of Reasons for Hope.

Her hobbies include cooking and baking, hiking, camping, travel, and working on do-it-yourself projects. Holly and her husband, Paul, (RforH*’s Special Content Manager) also enjoy any time they can spend with their three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren (so far!). They live in the beautiful state of Maine, and yes, eat lobster (properly pronounced “lobstah”) whenever they get a chance!
To learn more about Holly, or to book her as a speaker for educational, ladies', or girls' events, click HERE.

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