I was recently asked what person from scripture I found interesting or who I identified with the most. The answer didn’t take long, it had been on my mind for some time as Simon Peter has always been the apostle I felt I could most readily relate to. The story of Simon Peter is filled with the strongest of faiths, ample gifts from God and yet full of frailty, failure and humanity.
Simon Peter was a fisherman along with his brother Andrew, when one day Jesus came into their lives. He begins by telling them that if they follow Him, He will turn them into fishers of men. The gospels tell us that without hesitation they left their nets on the beach and began following Jesus. What strength of faith did that action take, what grasp of Christ’s divinity did they have to so readily leave their lives behind to follow this rabi. With determination and will Simon Peter left his former life behind and become a disciple following Jesus.
In Matthew's gospel we hear Christ asking his disciples; “But who do you say that I am?”, Peter replies without hesitation; “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”. Christ's reply speaks directly to Peter’s strength of faith; “‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” and at Pentecost, it was Peter’s voice that echoed through Jerusalem, and converted so many.
Here we have a man so passionate in faith, that he became the defacto leader of the apostles, the first bishop of Rome and the first Pope. The rock that Christ's church is built upon.
Yet Peter was human, frail, flawed. We hear in the gospels many accounts of miracles which Peter witnessed first hand, and with all this faith, during Christ’s passion, Simon Peter denied Christ three times. Here is a man so full of faith, yet so fearful for his own flesh, that he would deny the truth he has witnessed and knows in his heart.
It's reassuring to know that if even Peter could succumb to his weaknesses, we need not give up hope on ourselves in our times of weakness, that we too can fail and still pick ourselves back up to be disciples again.