Week 1 of 4

I like to think that Peter the disciple of Jesus and I would have been friends, had I lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. I would have likely nicknamed him “Big Pete.” In my mind I see him as a rough and burly big man, strong from long hours rowing and pulling nets from the water. Maybe you’ve seen guys like him in the gym—thick muscled, able to move anything in their way. I don’t imagine that he cared much what people thought of him. He knew his mind and that was enough. Had he ever thought about academics, he wouldn’t have thought about it long. He knew who he was and what he could do. I speak admirably about him as I imagine him to have been. I like guys like him. Guys who are solid, the salt of the earth, fearless.

We are about to take a deeper look at this man. In this sermon and blog series, I will chronicle what I can of his life, particularly the radical change he underwent. When he died he was the same man he had always been, even though he had experienced a fundamental transformation inside. At the time of his execution, he had become a leader who cared deeply for the people he led. He was tender and compassionate, which came from deep personal failure. He became aware that he no longer knew what he thought he knew. He discovered that he did care what people thought of him and that he wasn’t fearless. He had to face his failures. He tried to run away, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Jesus went after him and found him. We’ll look at this in the next few weeks.

As we get started, I’d like you to paint a picture of yourself, if only in your mind’s eye. What type of a person are you? Do you know what you believe? Can you be moved? Are you ever afraid? What do you care about most? Are you content?

I had lunch a couple of years ago with the man who discipled me in the ways of Jesus when I was in High School. Back then, I met with him for a couple of hours every week for a year. Over our lunch, I asked him, “why me?” meaning why did he invest so much time in me? I’ve heard many pastors over the years talk about investing in the lives of people they saw as potential leaders, or having that something extra that drew their attention. Asking this question after decades of ministry, my ego was expecting some description of what he saw in me. I was asking for affirmation and acknowledgement of what I went on to do, some confirmation that his investment had paid off. In his answer, he continued to disciple me. It was an answer I didn’t expect. He simply replied, “you were willing.” It wasn’t about any ability or potential I possessed. There was nothing special about me. I just responded to his invitation by showing up every week. I am confident that had I stopped showing up, our time together would have been over. He was willing to invest in me as long as I was willing to show up and do the work.

As we look at Big Pete, notice his willingness to engage with Jesus. Notice also, how he jumped in, literally, at every opportunity. But also notice how, even after he made a mistake, or looked stupid, he still showed up. I pray this for you as we get started. I pray that you keep showing up for what the Holy Spirit is teaching you and asking you to try. I pray that when you mess up, you don’t quit on Jesus. He certainly won’t quit on you.