13-1-2 Peter Our Example
Peter is set up as our example and pattern. The records portray him in
such a way that we see so clearly the similarities between him and us.
The good intentions, the flashes of zeal, the miserable failures, the
essential loyalty to the Man who was better than he. The Gospels also
portray Peter as the representative of the group of disciples. It is Peter
who answers when the Lord asks a question of them all (Mk. 8:29 cp. the
other accounts). The way Jesus looks upon all the disciples as He speaks
to Peter makes Peter some kind of representative of them all in the Lord’s
eyes (Mk. 8:33). In Mt. 16:17 Peter is commended for having had the Father
reveal Jesus to Him. Yet Mt. 11:27 says that the Father reveals the identity
of His Son to all who truly come to Him. Thus Peter is representative
of all who have truly perceived the Son’s identity in Jesus of Nazareth.
In one Gospel, all the disciples ask a question, while in the parallel
passage Peter is stated to have asked it (Mk. 7:17 cp. Mt. 15:15 and Mt.
21:20 cp. Mk. 11:21). Even outsiders considered Peter to be representative
of all the disciples (Mt. 17:24). “Peter and those with him” is how the
group is described (Mk. 1:36; Lk. 8:45 Gk.; 9:32). Peter’s crucial confession
that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God is repeated almost verbatim
by all the disciples, some time later (Jn. 6:69; 16:30). He is truly the
When about to drown, Peter our example called out: “Lord, save me” (Mt.
14:30); and He was saved. When he later preached to the crowds, he encouraged
them to likewise call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Acts 2:39).
He saw himself then and there, in all his weakness and yet sincere desperation,
as the epitomy of us all. But the parallels don’t stop there. Peter had
asked the Lord bid him ‘Come unto me’ (Mt. 14:28). Yet this is the very
language of the Lord to all: ‘Come unto me...’. Yet Peter went further;
in the same way as the Lord stretched forth His hand and saved Peter,
so He stretches forth His hand, Peter observed, to save all who would
come to Him (Mt. 14:31 = Acts 4:30). But Peter is framed as Jesus, in
that he too stretched out his hand to save others as Jesus had done to
him (Mt. 14:35 = Acts 5:15,16; Mt. 14:31 = Acts 3:7), bidding them come
through the water of baptism as Jesus had done to him. As Jesus was worshipped
after saving Peter, so men tried to worship Peter (Mt. 14:33 = Acts 3:11).
So Peter went through what we all do- having been saved by Jesus, having
come to Him and having been rescued by the outstretched arm, he responds
to this by doing the same for others.
When the Lord
“caught” hold of Peter as he sunk in the waves (Mt. 14:31), a Greek word
is used which occurs only once elsewhere: “He did not take hold [s.w. to
catch] of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). The Hebrew
writer was surely alluding to the Lord’s ‘catching’ of desperate Peter and
pulling him to salvation- and saw in Peter a symbol of all those who will
be saved by Christ.
The evolution of Peter’s spirituality was influenced by a growing appreciation
of the Lordship of Jesus, of His grace, and the real import of His cross.
But fuelling this dynamic was an ever deeper realization of his own personal
sinfulness. This was and is crucial for every man in Christ.
“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Lk. 22:32) found
its’ fulfilment in the Lord’s interview with Peter in Jn. 21. Three times
He asks him: ‘do you love me?’, and three times he invites Peter to care
for the lambs and sheep- to strengthen his brethren. The triple denial
and the triple re-enstatement and triple confession of love both occurred
by a fire, a charcoal fire on each occasion (Jn. 18:18; 21:9)
just to heighten the evident connection. Peter’s conversion can therefore
be equated with his response to the denials- the repentance, the realization
of his own frailty, and desperate acceptance of the Lord’s gracious pardon.
Yet Peter invites his fellow elders: “feed the flock of God”, repeating
the Lord’s commission to him, as if he saw in himself a pattern for each
man who would take any pastoral role in Christ’s ecclesia. The implication
is that each man must go through a like conversion. And Peter points out
that we are “a royal priesthood”, as if he saw each believer as a priest
/ pastor. Peter is our example. We all deny our Lord, camoflauge it and
justify it as we may. We all stand in Peter’s uncomfortable shoes. We
do in principle what Judas did.