Peter, What Have You Done?

By Hank Blok

Peter? Peter! Where are you? What have you done?
Hearing these inquiries, what is your first impression? Is it, “Oh, what has he done wrong now?” Or is it, “Oh, I have to find Peter so I can thank him for being so nice”? Unfortunately, we often think the worst and, especially when we consider the disciple Peter, isn’t that just what we do think? We almost immediately remember several of Peter’s faux pas [blunders] that required the Lord’s attention. While that may be true, please note that each one provides a wonderful teaching opportunity.

Peter Sank 
Just about everyone knows about Peter’s taking his eyes off the Lord Jesus and sinking into the boisterous waters of the Sea of Galilee (Mt. 14:22-33). The incident has always impressed me and caused a deeper respect for this disciple. Yes, he required the Lord’s intervention to save him from drowning, but let’s look at the positive things that this situation can teach us.

The Facts

  1. Of all the disciples in the boat, only Peter went out to meet the Lord to be closer to Him.
  2. He is the only person (other than the Lord) who truly walked on water (that wasn’t frozen).
  3. When he sank he taught us the perfect prayer for our needs: “Lord, save me!”
  4. Having prayed, he proved that the Lord Jesus does save those who call on Him.

The Lessons

  1. There are times when we may take the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone, stand up and publicly show our love for Christ.
  2. There is no record of Peter ever referring to his experience of walking on the water. Rather than boast of what he did, Peter spoke about the glories and majesty of his Lord (2 Pet. 1:16-18).
  3. When sinking, Peter called out, “Lord, save me.” No doubt he looked up to the Lord. What an example! When in need, the best thing to do immediately is to look up and call on Him.
  4. Through this incident Peter provides a good scenario for a gospel message. It also helps the believer who takes his eyes off the Lord and starts to sink into the waters of trouble and despondency. In our own personal experiences, rescue may not come as quickly as in this instance. Yet the Lord knows, hears and is always there for us – available to help. Sometimes we might even have to sink a little deeper to learn that we cannot do things on our own … but He has promised that nothing can come between Him and His child (Rom. 8:35-39).

Peter Fell 
Many would consider Peter to be one who “acts without thinking.” He meant well in all of his actions but sometimes he showed that he didn’t really know himself. We see this in one of his misguided claims: “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee” (Mt. 26:33-35 KJV). He still had to learn an important lesson: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41). And as we all know, on the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter denied his precious Master on three separate occasions – even cursing and swearing – saying, “I know not this man of whom ye speak” (Mk. 14:71). What can we learn from this most unfortunate event?The Facts

  1. The Lord knew Peter’s character as well as his heart and what was going to unfold. Before this event even happened He could say, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Lk. 22:32).
  2. Although Peter thought he could be different and never deny his Lord, he failed miserably.
  3. When this favored disciple realized what he had done, beholding his Lord as He looked upon Peter, he went out and wept bitterly.
  4. The one who denied his Lord was later used to bring many of his Jewish brethren unto salvation (Acts 2:41). He was also able to strengthen his fellow disciples by providing direction in the Church (Acts 1:15-26) and comfort to the weary (Acts 5:15-16).

The Lessons

  1. Nothing takes the Lord by surprise – He knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10). But He might let us fail that we may come to know what we are really like. Our Great High Priest did not pray that Peter would be kept from the trial, but that he would come through it with a stronger faith and commitment. Similarly the Lord Jesus may let us fail at some trial or temptation so we too might learn from it and come out if it as a stronger, more compassionate Christian. Take note of this: We never see Peter deny his Lord again and, in fact, he was allowed to die as he claimed he would – as a witness for the One who loved him and gave Himself for him.
  2. We never really know what wrong we are capable of doing. After all, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17:9)? It is important to realize that in the very point we feel we can never fall, that may be exactly where the tempter may cause us to stumble!
  3. When we need it, how good it is to have a bad conscience – whatever triggers it. In Peter’s case it was the Lord’s look. When David sinned it took the intervention of the prophet Nathan to point out his trespasses and bring about a work in his soul (See 2 Samuel 12:1-7). It is only when we truly realize what we have done, and the consequence of it, that the conscience can touch our hearts unto repentance and corrective action: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10).
  4. The Lord Jesus does not throw away or disown people who have failed him. He deals with them (1 Cor. 15:5; Jn. 21:15-17) and can change them into useful vessels to His honor. 

Isn’t it amazing that we so often major on other people’s mistakes rather than their positives. When we think of Peter we too quickly think of these two incidents, and yet there are so many wonderful things that can be attributed to this dear man. Among other things, he was:

  • The first chosen to be a disciple (Mt. 4:18, Mk. 3:14-16) and one of the three closest to the Lord (Mt. 17:1);
  • The one who answered a question with the fundamental statement, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16);
  • The one who received the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 16:19);
  • The first to walk on the water (Mt. 14:29) and, later, the one to jump out of the boat to be close to the resurrected Christ (Jn. 21:7);
  • The first evangelist with the message of the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:14-41);
  • The main spokesman of the Church to the salvation of the Jews (Gal. 2:7-8); and
  • He wrote two of the books of the Bible.

Having examined these events, it is easy to see that there were some very wonderful outcomes from Peter’s historical (maybe not so negative) events. They provide lessons as to the character of man – you and me included – and of the grace of God. 

Thinking About Present Failures 
Do you know a spiritual leader or elder, a person of special faith, or a child of God (including even yourself) who has failed in his or her spiritual walk? It may be time to really analyze the whole situation with a positive attitude and not look only at the negatives of the error. The following questions should be asked with a humble spirit:

  • What can we learn through this failure?
  • What can be done to provide a Christ-honoring outcome from these situations?
  • What conclusions do we need to apply in our own lives?

Furthermore, as the Lord prayed for Peter (Lk. 22:32) we should be praying for those who serve Him in a special leadership and pastoral role (and for ourselves) that the Lord would keep them (and us) personally faithful. Even if there is a sinking or falling, we can pray for restoration and a spiritual work within the soul that would again allow enablement to visible, profitable service (Lk. 22:32).

And finally, remember that Peter became very productive for the Lord even though he wasn’t perfect and even failed again, requiring a godly rebuke (Gal. 2:11-14). Oh, that the Lord would work through us to the blessing of others while being open to godly correction when we need it.