Can people really change? We all have those people we’ve given up on. We look at them and think (or even say) – that person; he’ll never be healthy, be reliable, be loving, be ________ (insert desired characteristic here). That person has either failed you, wronged you or disappointed you to the extent you are convinced that all hope of redemption is lost. It would take a miracle to make things better between them and yourself.
We left Peter a couple months ago in his worst possible moment. His leader has been executed, his team has disbanded, his character has been compromised. He is a wreck of a man. No one can imagine this proud, violent, cowardly man ever leading the most influential world-changing movement in the history of the world.
And he never did.
That’s the brilliant powerful truth that we learn on Easter morning. Jesus came back to lead his church. We forget this as quickly as my kids eat up an unwrapped chocolate egg. Peter remained a disciple – he never became a great leader. Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the disciples as they went ahead and changed the world.
On that morning, when Peter heard that Jesus had risen, he ran to the tomb to find out what had happened. He found more questions then answers. Jesus had returned. But what did that mean to him? He was still the one that had failed, he had made grand promises and proved to the world that he was all hot air. He was still the failure, how did Jesus coming back change any of that?
Isn’t that the big question we ask on Easter morning? Sure we might know the theological reasons, he took the penalty for our sins on the cross, he fulfilled all the Old Testament prophesies about the suffering servant, he conquered death, etc. etc. etc… But for Peter, and for many of us, those don’t change every day life. What changed Peter came on a fishing boat (again) when Jesus came and met him.
I find this one of the most beautiful parts of the Easter story. Peter decides to go back to his day job, he goes back to the nets he had left before following Jesus. Jesus had returned, but Peter still saw himself as the failure that fell short when it really mattered. He knew how weak his love for Jesus was, how he didn’t measure up to what the world expects of a leader, so he returned to being a fisherman.
In John 21, Jesus shows up on the shore and calls Peter back to a life of following him. Jesus asks, “Simon Peter, do you love me more then these fish?” Jesus then asks him to take care of the other disciples, to shepherd those who wander and fall, just like Peter himself had stumbled and fell. And then, in the book of Acts, Peter receives the Holy Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit – the same Spirit that empowered Jesus – he delivers a speech that kicks off the beginning of church history.
This happens because Jesus rose from the dead. He was alive and working in a fundamentally flawed disciple! These amazing things continue to happen because Jesus is alive now. Even today, disciples like you and I – failed and flawed like Simon Peter – accomplish amazing things through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.
This is how this series ends. We are fond of the “coming of age” story, the movies like the first Batman – where the simple person becomes the Super Hero. Perhaps, during this 7 part series you thought that Simon Peter would suddenly become the “super disciple” and sometimes we tell the story like he did. But that’s not how the Bible tells it. After his greatest failure, when he was at his lowest point, Peter was finally used by God to change the world. Was he suddenly different, stronger, better, smarter, more spiritual? Not in the slightest, he believed, was obedient and it was the living Jesus working through him.
Let’s finish with one the sentences from that famous speech in Acts chapter 2. The crowd asks Peter what they can do to be saved – Peter answered:
“Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit. This is a promise to you and to your children, and even to the foreigners! All who have been called by the Lord your God.”
He was saying – repent, become disciples, act in obedience. God will provide you with the rest. People can’t really change. Not really. But Jesus can live in them and make their lives completely different.
This was the end of the Simon Peter series. I hope you enjoyed it, found it helpful and encouraging.
I’d like to keep going on another topic or start another series and I’m open to suggestions. We continue to pray for you as you grow as disciples of Jesus.
Editor: And here’s a related video!