The Shaky Rock
Jesus’ appearance on the beach in John 21 occurred after His resurrection and therefore after His crucifixion and all the events surrounding it—including Peter’s cowardly denial of even knowing Christ. We can safely assume that Peter felt shame at his failure of loyalty and faith. We can just imagine him confiding to the other disciples, I had my chance, and I blew it. I betrayed Him. Here I am, the one who thought he would play the hero, standing as a testimony of the worst cowardice. So, as Jesus spoke to him, surely Peter wondered, What will He say? What part do I have in His people now?
Jesus didn’t write off Peter’s failure; He acknowledged it. After their meal together, Jesus addressed Peter by his old name, Simon, which means “listen.” At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). This change symbolized a shift that would occur in Simon Peter’s character and calling: he was shaky, but he would become firm like a rock. There on the shore, however, Jesus wanted to remind Peter of his shakiness. Before Peter could become steady, he needed to understand that his behavior had displayed neither a firm faith nor any measurable boldness rooted in Christ’s love.
Like Peter, you and I will sometimes feel sidelined by our failures, our backsliding, our unbelief. We will feel the ache of a dislocated faith; we will need the Master Surgeon to reach out and put our love back in place, sometimes painfully but always restoratively. Notice that it is indeed Peter’s heart, his love and devotion, that Jesus is most concerned about. Other qualities are desirable and necessary, yes, but it is our love for Christ that is indispensable. Where is our love? Is it built on shaky sand or on a firm rock?
Yet even as Christ puts our love back in alignment, He entrusts us with kingdom work. Jesus still chose to use Peter to build His church. How surprising that Jesus entrusted His “lambs” to the disciple who (with the exception of Judas) had most let him down and in whom was the greatest gap between profession and action. But how encouraging for us that Jesus would do so: for if He was willing to use someone like Peter, He will be willing to use someone like me and you. Jesus still chose to give Peter great responsibility, but that responsibility was meant to test Peter as well. The test of love for Jesus is whether a life displays obedience and action. The book of Acts shows how Peter, with the enabling of God’s Spirit, responded to the test.
The story of Peter, the shaky rock, stands as a reminder to us that God is a God of grace and second chances. Our weaknesses reveal our need for a strength that is not our own, a measure of might that is found only in our great Rock of Ages. Therefore, knowing that such strength is available to us from the Savior who died for us and commissions us in His service, you can walk into your day and do His bidding out of love for Him.
The Apostles Arrested and Freed
17But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23“We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
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