James T Kirk. Bold. Adventurous. Shoots from the hip. A hero to many. A bringer of chaos to anyone who has to work with him. A real cracked pot. Just like the Apostle Peter.
I love the Apostle Peter. I’m told I’m a bit like him. I’m not quite sure whether that’s good or bad. Peter has foot and mouth disease. That is, whenever he opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it. He is impetuous and acts before really thinking it through. Sometimes there’s a great result to that and sometimes it’s a bit of a car crash.
There was the time when Jesus went up a mountain and met with those great but long dead heroes of the faith, Moses and Elijah. He took Peter and a few others with him. Transfigured to these dizzy heights of glory, Peter feels he needs to say something. ‘Erm. Jesus. Want me to put up a few tents?’
What, Peter? Timing is everything, my friend, and this is the wrong time. But at least he said something!
Then there was the time when Jesus was wondering what people said about him. It looks like Peter says the right thing. ‘You are Saviour, Son of The Living God.’ His gut instinct is right. And Jesus praises his insight. But the very next conversation goes horribly wrong. Jesus talks about going to Jerusalem to die. Again, it is Peter who blurts our that this shouldn’t be allowed. ‘Don’t be negative Jesus! You aren’t going to die!’ This time Jesus condemns him as a messenger of Satan.
Peter always speaks and acts on impulse. He acts with faith but this sometimes gets him into deep water. It is Peter who steps out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus, but ends up sinking.
He makes promises he can’t keep. Jesus knows him better that he knows himself and knows that even brave and impetuous Peter will end up abandoning the Saviour, despite his promise to stick by him.
He behaves aggressively and has a violent streak. It is Peter who grabs a sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant when the mob come to arrest Jesus. It’s funny to imagine what Peter thought he was going to do, as an army of one. But that’s Peter. Act first and think later.
At the resurrection, the women tell Peter and John that the tomb is empty. Job gets there first and waits at the entrance… maybe with a sense of awe at what has happened. Peter? He just rubs straight in.
Sometimes, I’d like to be a little less like Peter. It can get you into trouble, being impulsive. I’m not sure you would really want Peter to be in charge of your team. You’d end up charging from one crazy initiative to the next. Always with enthusiasm and energy, but never quite sure where you are headed. And yet. God chose to use him. Despite some pretty massive flaws, he ends up with a pretty significant role in the early church.
I don’t subscribe to Peter being the first pope. I don’t see that in scripture. ‘The rock’ on which the church is built in Matthew 16 is the truth that Jesus is the Saviour, not this grantedly gutsy fisherman. He makes mistakes but Jesus doesn’t seem to worry. He just picks Peter up and recommissions him for the job at hand.
It’s Peter who opens his mouth and preaches to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost. And 3000 hear and come to follow Jesus. It is Peter who is first to take the message of the resurrection to Gentile people when previously only Jews had received the message.
I wonder what we’d say to Peter if he rocked up in church today? Rough, abrasive, impetuous, impatient. I think we’d probably want to knock the edges off him, tone down some of his more outrageous ways, and then maybe we could find a use for him.
But that’s not what Jesus did. He took that character, with all its flaws and all its potential, and made Peter into a great pioneer. This James T Kirk of first century Palestine helped shape the early church and challenged the more thoughtful believers to impetuous and adventurous action.
What would it mean for you and I to be a little like Peter today? To take a few risks to follow Jesus? To have a stab at things and risk failure, to not be paralysed by fear but to have a go?
Maybe we need a few more Peters, to boldly go where no-one has gone before, to seek out new worlds of opportunity with the Good News of the faith. There might be some chaos along the way, but the journey sure will be eventful.
This is a part of the Cracked Pots series of blogs …