We live in a country that’s obsessed with performance. From the time we are kids, we are
trying to out-perform our classmates in school or fellow athletes on the field. If we want to make the all-star team, we must perform better than the rest. If we want to get a girlfriend or boyfriend, we have to look better than the competition. And we never outgrow our performance-driven culture. We advance in life by performing well in college. We’ll get a raise at our jobs if we perform well. We’ll have a better chance at getting married if we can make ourselves look better than we are. Your Facebook “you” is much prettier, much happier, and has many more friends than the real “you.” Our entire lives are shaped by performance and making a good impression.
Enter Jesus: “Come to me, all of you who are weary from performance, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28 NLT altered). Our performance comes to a screeching halt when we meet Jesus. He’s not impressed with our moral track record, and he’s not turned off by our laundry list of sins. He meets us where we’re at and walks with us through thick and thin. Just think of how Jesus walked with his first disciples.
Peter is a prime example of a disciple whose spiritual walk was upheld by grace. Quick to speak and slow to think, Peter’s fragile character makes my sad prayer life look a little less embarrassing. On one occasion, he tells Jesus that he won’t let Him get crucified and Jesus rebukes him: “Get behind me Satan” (Matt 16). Wow! Have you been accused of speaking the very words of Satan? Peter did. He was accused by Jesus himself.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He washed his disicples’ feet. Peter tried to stop him, but then Jesus tells him that if he doesn’t let Jesus wash his feet, Peter will “have no part with” Jesus. Peter’s response is a bit uncomfortable: “not my just my feet, but my whole body!” Give me a sponge bath, Jesus! Talk about awkward.
And what about that time when Peter denies Jesus three times? This is truly unbelievable and encouraging all the same time. Peter has been hanging out with Jesus for three years. And when asked if he is a follower of Jesus, Peter says that he doesn’t even know the guy.
“Hey, weren’t you hanging out with this man from Nazareth?” “No sir, I wasn’t. I don’t even know the man.”
Can you imagine if you said this about your wife?
“Are you married to Christine?”
“Christine? Who’s Christine? I’ve never heard of the woman.”
Now I can get how scary this could be—Jesus is being hauled off by the authorities and a big, burly soldier with a club in his hand asks if you too were part of his clan. But according to Matthew’s gospel, the people who questioned Peter weren’t much of a threat. They weren’t soldiers or government authorities, policemen or jailors. The people that asked Peter if he too was with Jesus were two slave girls and some random people looking on (Matt. 26:69-75). And none of them were carrying clubs.
Imagine if your pastor got up next Sunday and told the entire congregation: “I don’t even know who Jesus is.” He’d be fired on the spot and rushed out of church. But not so with Jesus. He’s way less threatened by our doubts than we are. He knows how fragile our faith actually is—even if we try to spackle over our weakness with Christianeze performance. Just before Peter denied Jesus, Jesus told Peter that he would never let him go:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32).
Peter’s faith was created and upheld by Jesus himself. Were it not for Christ, Peter would have continued to deny that he knew Jesus. There’s an old hymn that says:
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above
We are all, like Peter, prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. But God’s goodness binds our wandering hearts to Him. Discipleship will never get off the ground until you cling to this basic point.
Peter is a perfect example of what discipleship looks like. We are zealous yet apathetic, full of faith and full of doubt, obedient one day disobedient the next. We are on an imperfect journey with a perfect Savior who upholds us by his grace and promises to never let us go.