He was the first of those to be called, with his brother Andrew dropping his fishing nets and lumbering into discipleship.
Peter is named in the Gospels nearly 200 times – far more than any of the apostles. Readers of the New Testament bump into him constantly. What’s not to admire?
Maybe just because I am a middle child, I admit to being irritated by this annoying brother who has to be first. He first in blurting out acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah – And then immediately presumed to have a better idea for how that should play out. “No, you don’t have to die; you see we’ll just….”
As if Jesus couldn’t have called someone with more keen perception, and more courage.
He got to accompany Jesus to the vision of Elijah and Moses – and his only inspiration was to find a way to keep them put. Good God he reminds me a lot of one of my brothers: “I’ll pop up some tents right here for tonight, and then I know how we can build a really great basilica!”
I’d like to keep his mother-in-law out of this, but really, to barge in on her while she’s sick, get Jesus to cure her, and then let her make everyone dinner? Once I have my lens on Peter I see nothing great.
He’s a Big fisherman, strong from hauling in the overflowing nets, but to defend Jesus from the soldiers he pushes forward —and cuts off a servant’s ear? Really??
Finally, when Jesus is taken in to be charged, even when some unnamed other apostle tries to pull Peter along as a second witness he lies, 3 times, to protect himself and abandons Jesus – who had already called him a Rock!
Petrified, maybe, but not a solid guy.
And this is how Peter is best known. His betrayal of Jesus is recorded in all 4 of the Gospels, and is a not infrequent subject of sculptors, icon carvers and painters across the centuries.
In 1991, this incident is the 4th Station in the Scriptural Way of the Cross written by Pope John Paul 11. Which is, by the way, worth looking at if you have not. I would not be surprised if some Jesuit leads retreats based on Peter, from his call, through his moments of chest swelling love, from his declarations of faith to his missteps, his betrayals, and ultimately to the forgiving embrace of Jesus
Clearly Christians – and perhaps their detractors- keep coming back to Peter, the betrayer.
He is an embarrassment. He is not who I would have cast as the first apostle. He is not faithful.
He is, instead, the highly magnifying mirror that catches us unaware under the harsh fluorescent light; a mirror that reflects the blemishes and imperfections of our own face, the one I at least would want to deny and reject. He calls B.S. that we are any better, any braver, or any more faithful.
It was never about Peter, as model disciple for the ages. It is always about Jesus, who looks at us in our worst moments, in shame new or revisited, and loves us.
It is about Jesus whose forgiveness is so unimaginable, and even now so unexpected, that we can only fall to our knees at the cross and weep.