Can I ask if anyone here has a friend who they love to bits and yet who drives them crackers at times?
The relationship between Peter and Jesus must have been a little like this. Peter gets some many things right and yet he also gets so many things wrong. He is an interesting character, full of bravado at times, and yet also a little bit fickle and unreliable. And yet, he is the apostle who Jesus ultimately appoints as the one on whom he is going to build his church. Imperfect, and at times flaky, Peter is to become the rock. This is something that we should all take huge confidence from: God’s strength is perfectly capable of working in, and through, our human weakness.
I love the today’s reading from the epistle, for what we see is the mature Peter; the Peter who has come through numerous trials and tribulations, the Peter who has had to face his own character flaws and yet who has grown into full spiritual maturity. Peter teaches us that growing into a mature faith is a life time’s work. In the epistle what we hear is a full exposition of Christian maturity and understanding. Peter it seems has finally got it. He, finally, understands everything that is to be understood about Jesus. He understands that Jesus came to do one thing and one thing only: to ‘set us free from our sins.’ He also, again finally, shows us that the way to real and eternal freedom is to ‘entrust’ ourselves to ‘the one who judges justly.’
Just pause to think about this: the man who rejected his best friend, and his Messiah, at his hour of need, has come to the radical understanding that God is above all else merciful. It is an incredible thought isn’t it that Jesus, despite Peter’s rejection, sees though our human frailties to our potential. If you ever feel that you fall short in your faith can I invite you to reflect on the relationship between Jesus and Peter. But can I also invite you to look beyond the perceived frailties and shortcomings of others, just as Jesus did.
If we see the mature Peter in the epistle we see the heroic yet immature Peter, in the gospel reading. Peter is of course correct in his affirmation that Jesus is the ‘Messiah the Son of the Living God.’ Like Peter we too must continually make this affirmation of faith. The entirety of Christianity is contingent on agreeing with Peter’s declaration. And, of course the basic job of the Church is to bring people to the place where they too can answer the question Jesus poses: ‘but who do you say I am.’ This is the most basic job of this church.
When, however imperfectly, we are able to say with Peter that Jesus is the ‘Messiah the Son of the Living God, then the door is opened for the Holy Spirit to begin the journey of bringing us, like Peter, to a mature and living faith; a faith which allows us to live radically different lives, a faith which becomes characterised by our willingness to endure pain and suffering with a sense of hope, a faith which allows us to become the sort of people who extend the hand of friendship and offer forgiveness, a faith which frees people from the burdens of their past and offers them new hope and a new identity as children of God, a faith which doesn’t simply look to the after-life but which brings the Kingdom of God into the here and now, a faith which accepts and works with imperfection, frailty and vulnerability as its essential ingredients.
By mediating on the nature of the relationship, the friendship, between Peter and Jesus we get to understand a whole lot more about God, for we see the tenderness, compassion and mercy of Jesus. We begin to understand that God is good at working with and through the messiness of our lives and that God can, and will, bring us to maturity.
Surely that is a faith worth having and a faith worth sharing? Amen.