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From Lenten Doubt to Easter Hope
You have to love the curious case of Peter the apostle. Is there any character in Scripture that provides such great encouragement for those of us gripped by the absence of hope while in the throes of nagging doubts? Let's be honest: Peter hardly stands among the pantheon of historic Bible heroes as some stalwart, vigilant giant. To the contrary, Peter was an impulsive man who lacked much faith, but the plot of Peter's life story is how God remained faithful through numerous episodes of faithlessness. In fact, the real story of Peter's life is how the gospel changed him from a troubled doubter to a transformed disciple.
Let's consider some of the dramatic highs and lows Peter experienced as Jesus was nearing the time of His death and resurrection.
- Peter takes a step of faith and walks out on the Sea of Galilee to meet Jesus, only to start drowning after being distracted by the stormy seas. Jesus asks him why he doubted (Matthew 14).
- Jesus asks Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" and he answers, "The Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus calls him blessed, and reveals that He would build His church through Peter (Matthew 16).
- After Jesus mentions that He is going to be delivered to die on the cross, Peter gets upset and tells Him to stop speaking of such things. Jesus promptly rebukes him as a mouthpiece for Satan (Matthew 16).
- When the chief priests and Pharisees come to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter impulsively cuts off a soldier's ear. Jesus rebukes Peter for his act of violence and reminds him that He has much more than a sword at his disposal if he wants deliverance (Matthew 26).
- While warming his hands outside the court on the night of Jesus' trial, Peter is recognized three times as one of Jesus' disciples. He promptly denies all three accusations, but weeps bitterly about it later (Matthew 26).
So what was it exactly that changed Peter? How did he go from being a fearful, doubting, disloyal disciple to the rock on which Christ built His church?
Following the resurrection, the book of John recounts a beautiful, heart-wrenching conversation between Jesus and Peter, where Peter is asked three times if he loves Jesus. After every reply to the affirmative, Jesus tells Peter to then "feed my sheep." How could someone as wanting and needy as Peter be the one to feed God's sheep? The answer was standing right in front of him: the risen Christ. Whatever doubts, whatever faithlessness had characterized Peter was now put to rest after looking into the eyes of the resurrected Christ. Peter could now rest in Christ's finished work and begin the work of establishing the New Testament church.
Like it did Peter, the gospel delivers us from the heart-crushing effects of personal doubt. Because Jesus lived the perfect life for us, we don't have to fear the trials and tragedies that will inevitably be a part of our lives. Because Jesus died and incurred the wrath of God on behalf of our own sins, we can now rest in the assurance that our own sins have been buried with Christ. Because of the resurrection, we don't have to fear our own death; Jesus conquered death in our place and raised us to new life in Christ.
Because of the risen Christ, Christians are the only people who can say with all assurance that "everything will be all right." Though we will all continue to need varying degrees of reassurance from time to time as we live in our earthly shells of sin and humanity, the Lord will be faithful to His own name and continue to reveal His glory to us in the form of Christ, our undeniable hope.
Ronnie Martin is a Dove Award-nominated recording artist best known as the sole member of Joy Electric. Ronnie has more than 20 album credits and is a worship arts pastor and young adults teacher at Ashland Grace Church in Ohio. He lives in Ashland, Ohio, with his wife, Melissa, and daughter.
Martin is the co-author, along with Ted Kluck, of Finding God in the Dark: Faith, Disappointment, and the Struggle to Believe, now featured at the Patheos Book Club.