We all have failed (at least at something). Failure can be brutal, but if we are willing to swallow our pride and learn from our blunders, failure can be a blessing in disguise. Simon Peter is my favourite disciple, I found the guy to be likeable and lovable from the moment I was introduced to him. A lot can be said about his character, but the indisputable fact is that Peter loved Jesus.
Peter is a classic example of someone whose faith and life was significantly shaped and impacted by failure. Some of his failures recorded in the bible are;
- Failure to trust Jesus to stay afloat. Mt 14:28-30
- Failure to recognise Jesus’ mission. Mt 16:21-23
- Failure to stay committed to Jesus in the face of persecution. Mt 26:69-75
- Failure to keep quite. John 13:8-9
- Failure to excercise self-control John 18:10
- Failure to mind his own business. John 21:20-22
It was his failure to stay committed to Jesus in the face of persecution, that is recorded in all four Gospels. I believe the main reason for this emphasis is to warn us, that we too are capable of failling, and also to reassure us that God is able to restore us even after we have failed.
Mt 26:31, Jesus said to them (His disciples), “ALL of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night.”
Mt 26:33, Peter answered, “Even if ALL are made to stumble because of You, I will NEVER be made to stumble.”
Mt 26:34, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial
Mt 26:35, Peter’s response, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.”
Well, we all know what happened a few verses later, v 69-74, Peter would deny Jesus with oaths and curses.
But it was Peter’s boastful declaration in verse 33 that grabbed my attention. Loosely translated, Peter was saying to Jesus,‘You are right about them, but wrong about me.’
But why was Peter so sure that other disciples can fail, but not him? I believe it was pride. Pride makes us believe that we are better than everyone around us, that we are right and everybody else is wrong, that we know more than everyone around us. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 issue a warning, “If you think you are standing strong, becareful not to fall.”
Peter’s boasting was destined to end in tears, in v 75, we encounter a broken Peter, crying bitterly after realizing that he had done exactly what he declared he would never do. Indeed pride goes before the fall, Proverbs 16:18.
What does this failure mean for Peter? Considering that before the drama unfolded, back in Mt 16, Jesus had called Peter a Rock, on which He will build His church. Yet, Peter has proved to be unstable and undependable. Peter was anything but the Rock.
In one of His post-resurrection appearances, in John 21:15-17, we read the exchange between Peter and Jesus, at the sea of Tiberius. In the presence of other disciples, three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times, Peter responded in the affirmative. John 21:15, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these.” Peter said, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
I noted Peter’s response with great interest. Peter responded by assuring Jesus of his love, but this time without comparing himself to others, considering Jesus had asked him if “he loved Him more than ALL these.” Surely, Peter remembered where arrogance got him the last time. Failure had humbled Peter.
Failure is a wonderful teacher to those who want to be taught. Failure teaches us to have compassion for other people when they fail.Failure teaches us not to be judgemental to others when they fail because we realise we have the propensity to do the same things.
Jesus knew Peter was going to fail, but still prophetically named him for what, by the grace of God, he would become, the Rock. Isn’t it awesome to know that God sees us through our purpose and not our failures?
Who would have thought that Peter would become a role model of a humble servant-leader. His two epistles are filled with beautiful instruction on how to live the Spirit-filled life. This is the same Peter who wrote in 1 Peter 5:5-6 that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Surely, on the other side of failure there is great spiritual maturity.