A Story About Re-affirming Faith

At thirteen, the noisy, extroverted Simeon thought that he would prefer to be known by the Greek form of his name, Simon. After all in Bethsaida, although thoroughly Jewish, he came into daily contact with Gentiles, all of whom spoke Greek. Jonah, his father, also known locally as John, was not too pleased about it, but he recognized that it might be good for business. So the young man who married a Capernaum girl and set himself up in the fishing industry was known all around Lake Galilee by the name of Simon.

Simon, together with his younger brother, Andrew, were greatly impressed by the fierce, fiery preaching of John, nicknamed the Baptizer. But then there came the life-changing day when Jesus came to them while they were fishing close to the shore and said, instead of drawing fish into their net, they should help him draw people into God’s kingdom.

Jesus said to big, blustering, boisterous Simon, “You changed your name once because you thought it would be good for business. I’m changing your name again. From now on I’m going to call you Cephas. If you like to use it in its Greek form of Peter that’s all right by me, but it’s on your faith that I am going to build a whole new People of God.”

Well those were exciting times. It was great to be one of the inner circle close to Jesus when he was so popular in the country districts, but he became increasingly apprehensive as he saw the animosity of the religious leaders building up against his champion. He tried to dissuade Jesus from going on that last, fatal visit to Jerusalem, but his Master would not be deterred.

In Jerusalem, Jesus enacted the prophecy of Zechariah and rode into the city on the back of a donkey amid cheering and excited crowds, but a few evenings later he was arrested by the temple guard in the moonlit Garden of Gethsemane. Peter was incensed when Jesus said that each one of his followers would desert him that evening and protested loudly that even if the others failed him, he would never let Jesus down.

When the armed men arrived, Peter grabbed hold of a sword and started to wield it wildly. He was not an expert swordsman, but he did succeed in cutting off the ear of one of the High Priests servants who had come with the guard. Peter was nonplussed when Jesus told him to put the sword away. He said something about those who relied upon the sword for their successes eventually perishing by the sword. Confused, bewildered, terrified, Peter and all of Jesus’ followers ran away.

 But later Peter felt a ashamed of having bolted and went right into the courtyard of the High Priest’s mansion and sat with the guards around a fire trying to find out from them what was going on. However his courage gave way when a serving girl recognized him as one of the up-country group that had accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem. He pretended that he didn’t know what she was talking about. Another serving girl said she had seen him with Jesus while someone in the courtyard shouted out, “His accent gives him away. Of course he’s a Galilean.” That was too much. Peter cursed and swore that he didn’t know Jesus at all. When he realized what he had done it was too later. Much too late to make amends. He had denied his Hero in his hour of greatest need.

Peter was devastated, devastated by his own cowardice, by his fickleness, by his denial of Jesus. This was made worse by the events which followed. The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death and obtained consent from the ruling Roman authorities who executed him in the way Romans usually got rid of traitors or criminals.Then the most amazing things happened. The women who went to anoint his body in the tomb came back with the report that he was not there. Peter, with John, another of the disciples, ran as fast as he could to Joseph Arimathea’s garden. John got there first and stood outside the cave looking in, but when Peter arrived he didn’t stop until he stood right inside the tomb. He saw the material that had been wrapped around the body lying neatly folded on the stone shelf and the piece that had been wrapped around the head lying separately.After that there were a number of occasions when Peter, as with others of the disciples, saw Jesus and heard him speak. But the really significant meeting for Simon Peter took place on the shore of Lake Galilee. He still felt bad about the way he had let Jesus down and hoped that he would get a chance to apologise for it, but with the appearances there never seemed to be the opportunity to do it until this day by the lake.After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love me more than these?” To which Simon responded that indeed he did love Jesus—surely he didn’t have to tell Jesus, he should have known that! But three times Jesus put the question to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And when Simon said that he did, he was told, “Feed my sheep” or “Feed my lambs”.Jesus asked Peter for a reaffirmation of faith, and on the basis of that reaffirmation gave him a task to do, a role to play, a mission to accomplish.  Something to Think and Talk About

  • If Jesus, as Peter suggested, knew that Peter loved him, why did he ask for Peter to say so?
  • What sort of link do you suppose might exist between the fact that Peter three times denied his Master and the three-times asked question, “Do you love me?”

 Read 1 John 3: 1-3Baptism is a sign that the person being baptised is a child of God, but this isn’t appreciated unless the person grasps hold of it by faith. It is by faith that we live in God’s love. Our faith sometimes fails, but there is always a way back. By re-affirming our faith we can enter again and again into the reality of God’s grace and love. So God gives many opportunities for new beginnings, as Peter experienced.

  • Faith, as used here, is not belief in a doctrine. It is trust or commitment. How much do you trust God? In which of the following ways you do trust God?

I trust God as revealed in Jesus Christ—–

– to make the sun rise tomorrow

– to look after me when I die

– to answer prayer

– to heal the sick

– to bring good out of pain and suffering

– to bring me success in life

– to bless me, my family and my nation

– to help me through times of trouble

I show my trust—–

– by living according to his ways of love

– by giving myself wholeheartedly to a task that God gives me to do

– by generosity in my giving

– by repentance and confession of my sin

– by my church involvement

– by the sacrifices I make

– by sharing my faith with others

– by being free of anxiety and worry

A Prayer

You ask me, Lord, do I love you?

You know me. Why do you ask?

You’re challenging me to look at myself.

That’s awkward! I feel ashamed.

My love for you is weak and changeable.

Forgive me and please fill me with your Spirit.

Restore in me desire for your way.

Revive in me strong faith in you

Rekindle the fire of my first love.

Remove from me all unbelief.

Repair my broken faith, hope and love.

In Christ’s name I pray. Amen— so let it be!

A Commitment*

I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. Amen.

*The Covenant Prayer as used in the Covenant Service of the Uniting Church in Australia, based on that prepared by John Wesley.