It has often troubled me that when we speak of Peter we generally speak of what we perceive as his negative traits and experiences. We talk about him as brash, as zealous without wisdom, as the one that lacked faith and sank when he walked on water with Jesus, as the one that denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest. While all of these things may be completely true, they are not the full measure of this man, in fact, they are not even a large portion of his character. Peter was one of the first disciples Jesus chose, he was the first person to recognize and declare that Jesus was the Messiah, he was the only person other than Jesus to walk on water, he was one of only three people chosen to be present when Jesus was transfigured, he was chosen by God to preach the first sermon “under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and he was chosen by God to be the first person to take the gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles. Peter’s obedience far outweighed his disobedience, but for some reason we focus on his stumbling much more than his success.
I believe that one of the reasons we focus on Peter’ negatives is that we focus on our own negatives. We are constantly under an attack from “the accuser of the brethren”, being reminded of our sin, reminded of our fear, of our lack of faith and so we have a tendency to stand in judgment of ourselves which causes us to also stand in judgment of others around us. It is very important that we understand and believe how God sees us and what God says about us so that we can overcome the temptation to believe that we have failed so miserably that we have lost our place in God’s heart. When Jesus declared Peter as “the rock on which I will build my Church”, He was fully aware of the places where Peter’s character lacked, He was already fully aware that Peter would deny Him, He knew all of Peter’s faults, all of his sins and all of his future struggles. Peter’s confession did not earn him a greater position in the Kingdom of God, it revealed Peter’s position in God’s Kingdom.
We are sons and daughters of God, we have been purchased with Jesus’ blood and adopted by the loving heart of the Father. As Paul said, we are not our own, we were bought with a price. We have not earned our place, or failed to earn our place, God has chosen to love us, He wills that none would perish, and we have not chosen Him and by choice received grace, He has chosen to pour His grace out to us. Through all of his struggles and what we perceive as failure I believe that Peter was keenly aware of where he stood with Jesus. When Jesus rebuked him for being used by Satan as a stumbling block, Peter understood that that time of error did not remove the confession of Christ that he had earlier made. When he denied Jesus three times on the most difficult night of his life, Peter somehow knew that he was still loved, that he was still chosen, that he was able to be restored.
A short time later when Peter looked out from his boat and realized that it was Jesus standing on the shore, it was as if he knew that Jesus had come for him, he dove in the water and swam to reach Jesus, not to prove his devotion but as a response to the devotion of Jesus. For all of our talk about Peter there is one thing that I have never heard or realized before and that is that Peter understood what it was to be restored. He knew very high and intense moments of victory and he also knew what must have felt like crushing moments of defeat but in the midst of them all he knew who he was in Christ. He knew that he was loved by Jesus, that he was chosen by Jesus, that he was enjoyed by Jesus. Restoration is not living to make up for past failure, it is living in the reality that past failure is no longer held against us. Peter, more than anyone else, knew what it was to be restored. I am sure that he was tempted many times to let his mind wander back to the night of his denials, but just as many times, probably many more, his mind went back to that morning on the beach, when Jesus came to find him, to feed him and to forgive him.
In I Corinthians 6, Paul makes a long list of what we used to be, and then in verse 11 he writes, “but you were washed”. Restoration is knowing that we have been washed, living in the reality of what has been done for us, not the pressure of what we have to do to earn it. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus then you have been washed, you have been restored, let’s live like it! May we live with our hearts and our minds free from guilt, free from accusation and free from doubt. Let’s lead others to restoration by being confident that we have been restored, our position has not changed, God is for us and because of that, we are eternally His children.