14 March 2023
Peter manifested leadership qualities very early in his association with the Lord Jesus; he was one who often spoke up before the others; he was however also rather impulsive, and he responded rather quickly to situations without much hesitation and thinking.
When the Lord Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt. 26:31).
Take note that it is the Lord who predicted what will happen and also the Scripture also refers to such a happening. Yet, notice the response of Peter:
“Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will”
Peter insisted that even if all fall away, he will not; also, he even affirmed that he never will fall away on account of the Master. We know the subsequent account – Peter denied the Lord three times despite this declaration and he wept bitterly when this happened.
Years later, as we studied the book of Galatians, we were told that Apostle Paul had to correct Peter openly because he withdrew from eating with the Gentile believers when certain Judaizers turned up. Apparently, Peter did so because of fear of the party of Judaizers from Jerusalem, and he did it despite the fact that he was clear that God has accepted the Gentiles and he was the one who was first sent to the house of Cornelius (a Gentile) to bring the gospel to Cornelius and his house. Even though it must be most embarrassing for Peter to be corrected openly, he subsequently spoke well of Paul in his epistle, and even noted that Paul’s writings were part of Scripture and sometimes difficult to understand.
What happened to Peter presents certain important lessons for us today: We need to walk humbly with God and not be overconfident and be so sure of ourselves and the state of our spiritual life.
Even though we may be close to the Lord, and we may have received much from him, we have to be always dependent on Him, and to realise our own weaknesses, as well as the presence of a formidable enemy. And even when we have reached a certain level of spiritual maturity (and Peter was an Apostle and a leader in the Jerusalem church), we still need to be prayerful and lean closely on God and His Spirit, and be very vigilant.
Also, when we do fail, God still does not give up on us, provided there is the inner realIty of love for God and the meekness and humility to be corrected by the brethren, and to repent, and make a comeback to Him.
The sharing today concentrates on what Apostle Peter, who had himself failed God and also suffered on account of the Master, had to tell us about Christian sufferings.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12).
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name” (4:15-16).
What we need to take note is that our sufferings as Christians in participation with the sufferings of Christ are not in vain – we can instead rejoice because God is pleased and we need not be ashamed – when Christ comes again and His glory is revealed, we will receive approval. This is tantamount to ‘carrying our cross”. But we must not think that every kind of suffering here on earth that besets us means participating in Christ’s sufferings and means carrying our cross. We may suffer for our own foolishness and wrongdoing; we may suffer because of illnesses, various calamities and pains that also affect other people of the world – these do not fall under the category of suffering for Christ and suffering as a Christian.
Peter’s exhortations come from the hand of one who knows what it means to suffer for Christ, and what sufferings mean because of our own failures and weaknesses. Tradition refers to the death of Peter in crucifixion for his loyalty to Christ: it shares that Peter requested to be crucified upside-down because he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Master.
We have not finished the race like Peter had; but let us have this consolation that even for one like Peter, the Lord Jesus continued to shower His love and mercy, despite his significant failures; but more than that, let us learn from the example of Apostle Peter to continue to come back, persevere, and endure to the end, with the understanding that it is indeed a privilege to participate in Christ’s sufferings and to suffer as a Christian until we see Him face to face.