Part four of the Back to the Heart of the Faith series
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
The scripture is filled with men and women who held hope in the promises of God. Indeed, this is the heart of the Christian’s faith – the essence – the very thing itself. Out of the entirety of the Word, though, one would be hard-pressed to find another example of rightful hope as profound as the hope that Peter knew intimately. What distinguished him from his brothers and sisters or even from the fathers who had served the children of the promise who were still to come by speaking of the things to come which the disciples were teaching after they had already come (1Pe 1:12)?
Paul had persecuted the church mercilessly and knew forgiveness at the mercy of his Lord on the road to Damascus. A frightened Thomas, doubting and unbelieving, found hope in the wounds of the risen Savior and the disciples found courage to face the certainty of their fate. Just as the world slayed the Lamb, they too would find their respective slayers, for they were hated because of Jesus, but, yet, there was something unique about Peter. His brash pride and certainty often introduced him to humiliation. When he proclaimed that Jesus would not be killed, Jesus rebuked him strongly, calling him “Satan” and, upon proclaiming his unwavering faith, Jesus assured him that the rooster would not crow three times before Peter had denied his Lord (Mt 16:21-23; 26:34).
Jesus was taken and, there, in the courtyard, Peter sat when he was approached by a servant girl who questioned his relationship with Jesus. “I am not [one of His disciples],” he responded and left for the gateway. Warming himself nearby, he was asked again, and, again, he denied it. Finally, he was asked a third time and began to shout curses at the people, denying his Lord as was predicted, saying, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” The rooster crowed and, as the scripture describes it, Peter “broke down and wept” (Mt 26:69-75; Mk 14:66-72; Jn 18:15-18, 25-27).
“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
The rooster had crowed and he had rejected the One in whom the words of eternal life rested. Even if he had to die with his Lord, he believed he would never reject Jesus and he was now alone; this was certainly a dark and hopeless place for Peter. Soon, Jesus was beaten and nailed to the torturous cross. Peter could not have been forgetful of his denial, that rejection of his Master who was dying and he could not see it as fit to even claim companionship with this “king of the Jews” as they would have mocked, much less could he now even have part in dying with Jesus. Years of teaching and companionship were gone and there was no way to reclaim what he had given up. Jesus had been slain and, with Him, Peter’s hope and courage.
Soon after, Mary Magdalene, after seeing the empty tomb, ran to Peter and John (the “other disciple”) to tell them the news, after which both ran to it. The “other disciple” beat Peter, but hesitated to enter, yet Peter, headlong as always, rushed inside to inspect the remaining linen. They had not yet known the full meaning of what had happened. Later, by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the shore. They had been fishing and He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they replied, to which Jesus responded by instructing them. When the haul was too heavy, they recognized that it was the Lord standing before them. Instead of riding on the boat with the others, Peter jumped overboard and began to swim to the shore towards his risen Master. After the boat had returned, Jesus asked and Peter ran to collect fish enough for them to eat.
The fish were eaten and Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Peter was asked again, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Again, he responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
A third time, Jesus asked Peter and he was hurt at this, responding, “Do you love me? Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” At this, he was commanded to feed the sheep. He had been restored. His great transgression – a dark denial and rejection of his Master – had been forgiven by such unfathomable kindness and mercy. Hope? Yes, Peter knew hope intimately. When he was at a time of his life where darkness and hopelessness was all-consuming, Jesus had risen from the dead and commanded him to follow after his Lord alone. He knew this great mercy and the transition or new birth, as it were, in the living hope through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead leading to an imperishable inheritance, which is kept in heaven for the faithful “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
This is a hope for those who hear their Master’s voice in their heart. It is a “living hope”, which does not wane or falter, nor does it lose its effect or power, but continues on as all who trust in the risen Lord are shielded by God’s power to persevere until the coming salvation. As Peter wrote, though the faithful’s eyes do not yet see Him, they love Him and, though they do not see Him yet, they believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible joy for the faithful are receiving the end result of said faith, their soul’s salvation. To the glorious God and Father of the Lord Jesus, be all praise and honor and worship forever. Amen.