Throughout Christian tradition, Peter is possibly one of the most overwhelming and polarizing New Testament characters. He started his journey with Christ as a tag-along, invited by his brother, but soon grew to be one of Jesus’s most-trusted friends. Peter was present for many of the great events in Jesus’s ministry — the multiplying of food, the sermon on the Mount, prayers in the garden, and Jesus’s arrest and beating. Peter was known for his hot-headed nature, but even more so for his fiery faith. Before Peter would be known as a leader of the early church, he first overcame certain shortcomings, which could provide a model for us as well.
- Fear — Peter faced some fear while following Jesus. In fact, he is often remembered for a well-known scene on a boat in the middle of a lake (Matthew 14: 22-36). After a day of performing miracles, Jesus approached his disciples by walking on the water, frightening his disciples. Peter boldly called out to Jesus, asking to be invited to join him on the water, and Jesus beckoned him. All was fine for several steps, until Peter noticed the wind, looked down, and felt his fear took over. Yet Peter responded appropriately, calling “Lord, save me!” Jesus responded, caught him, and returned him to the boat. From this, we learn that even when we fear, we can call on our Christ and trust Him to catch us every time.
- Short-sighted — During the disciples’ travels, Jesus began to prepare them for his upcoming death. When detailing the pain that would soon come, Peter quickly stopped his friend, declaring, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” As Jesus explained to him, Peter was too focused on the joys of his companionship and his love for Jesus to acknowledge the work that would have to be done to fulfill his purpose (Matthew 16:21-23). We all suffer from similar short-sightedness in our own lives; it can be difficult to see the end products of glory when we are in the midst of pain or unhappiness. Like Peter, we must learn to look past our current circumstances, trusting that our promises will come.
- Rash words — Peter was often known for speaking without pausing for thought. Upon seeing Jesus in His true glory, Peter leapt at the chance to build a temple to Him, Moses, and Elijah, focusing on the site as miraculous rather than the person (Matthew 17:1-13). When the disciples arrived in Capernaum, Peter practically promised Jesus’s payment to temple tax collectors (Matthew 17:24-27). And finally, on the night of Jesus’s arrest, Peter denied friendship with Him several times, even going so far as to swear to not know Him (Matthew 26:69-75). In all these occasions, Peter was quick to humble himself and learn from his mistakes, correcting himself and taking the appropriate steps to make things right.
Despite several faults, Peter matured greatly during his short years in Jesus’s ministry. He set an example for generations of Christians, proving that a willingness to learn from mistakes and a trust in One greater than ourselves can guide a believer’s growth beyond their hopes. One fisherman who agreed to follow Christ became a foundation for His future church.