A passion to get right
There's been some debate about the disciple Jesus loved. Traditionally it was John. Some modern scholars identify James as the beloved disciple. We may never know with certainty. There's little debate that Peter, James, and John were the closest intimates of Jesus, along with Andrew, part of the inner circle of the disciples. Still, even more obvious, Peter was first, that is "protos", among the twelve. He's named first in every biblical list of the Apostles, Jesus spoke to him most often, stayed in his house, healed his mother-in-law, used him as object lessons, and was exasperated by him more than any of the others. He was also Jesus' greatest challenge and his most troubling spiritual project. Obviously Jesus wanted to entrust leadership of the twelve to Peter. But, his transformation was a difficult one.
It's an interesting study, the change of Simon Peter. You know much of the story already. But, let's just give it a broad brush so that the events of Passion Week and the days that followed can be seen in it's most revealing perspective. Here's a snapshot---
1. Peter is called to follow Christ and become a fisher of men.
2. One day Peter acknowledged the identity of Christ as Messiah. In the
aftermath of that spiritual high moment Jesus promised to change his name
from Simon bar Jonah to Petros. It's interesting to note that the word "Jonah"
means "dove" in Hebrew, or, more generically, "fluttering bird". Jesus was going
to transform impuslive, wavering, uncertain Simon bar Jonah into a rock, a solid
leader of the church.
3. Peter vacillated throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus in several episodes
when difficult circumstances or pressure or high expectations revealed his
flighty, mercurial character.
4. During Passion Week Peter's inconstant and unreliable ways reached new
heights of disappointment: he led the chorus of empty promises to die rather
than deny Jesus; he followed from a distance (see Matthew 26:58); and finally
denied him three times in the garden of the high priest.
5. As Jesus was being led away he made eye contact with Peter. Peter went out
and wept bitterly. Jesus had been so right about him. Satan was sifting him.
But, that eye contact was a turning point for Peter. After the resurrection Peter and John ran to the tomb. His passion was to get right with Jesus. When Jesus wasn't there Peter obviously remembered the Lord's words about going to Galilee. So, Peter and several others went there to fish. While the group was in the boat they saw Jesus on the shore. Simon wrapped his robes around himself and dove into the water to swim ashore and get right with the Lord he had so miserably failed. And, there on that beach, at Tabgha, Jesus restored Peter.
It's a profound, very poignant record of how Simon bar Jonah became Peter, the man who stood on the day of Pentecost, preached the Gospel to the huge crowd, and welcomed 3,000 souls to the kingdom. Time to rejoice and celebrate.
Yes, Peter finally had a driving passion to be right with Jesus. He wanted to find Jesus. But, Jesus found him. John's account in John 21 is so earth shattering, yet so simple. Jesus found Peter and said to him what he had said in their first encounter: Follow me. In that conversation Peter asked about John. Jesus re-directed the interchange back on Peter. Jesus said, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" (John 21:22, ESV).
Here's my Passion Week thought: Jesus is more passionate about making things right with the ones he chose than any of us mere humans. What is more, being his dependable, consistent, reliable disciple is a matter of following him.
It's a learning many of us should endure in this Passion Week. We like to complicate things with our own angles on being a fully functioning disciple of Jesus. In fact, for generations of church history we've grown more self-reliant in our piety and devotion and view ourselves as the ones so passionate to make things right with him.
Last night I read Colossians 1:15-23 as a reminder about him. He is the one passionate to make us right with the Father. Paul wrote---
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has
now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and
blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith,
stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard,
which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul,
became a minister.
Colossians 1:21-23, ESV
He's the one that transforms our passion weak into Passion Week. He has a passion to make us right.