When the Hero Fails. Again. And Again.
Everyone loves a good story and it seems that the more an audience can connect with the hero the more enjoyable the story becomes. When it comes to the story of the Bible Jesus is undoubtedly the hero. But, because of his nature as divine we often have a hard time connecting our lives with his. God wisely chose to showcase people who are easy for us mere mortals to relate with. The goal of our initial series "Who Can Follow Jesus" was to bring out different aspects of Jesus' closest followers in hopes that you can relate to them. But one particular disciple gets a disproportional amount of screen time. It was almost as if God was telling us that our journey would look something like his.
Peter and the Naked Gun
I love spoof movies and there are none better than Leslie Nielsen's "The Naked Gun" series. Nielsen sends up all the classic action hero roles with adolescent humor and bumbling buffoonery. At the end of the movie Nielsen wins despite himself. Just like Peter.
Peter tried hard and failed harder. Every time he seemed to get something right he ended the story with egg on his face and humiliation on his psyche. Here are some stories where Peter flopped:
- Matthew 14:22-32 Peter walks on water and immediately sinks because of doubt
- Matthew 16:15-23 Peter confesses Jesus as Lord and quickly gets called Satan
- Matthew 17:1-8 In the middle of Peter's "bright idea," God himself is inclined to interrupt the non-sense
- Matthew 26:69-74 The account of Peter's public denial of knowing Jesus despite just saying he would never deny Jesus.
Something good and noble quickly turns into something humiliating. But just like the Naked Gun movies the sum total of humiliation means nothing in light of the final result.
A true hero does not quit
Who was the pastor that oversaw the first great church service? Peter. And this time he didn't mess it up. His repeated failings eventually added up to the foundation of what we call the church. Peter tapped into an enormous power to proclaim the Gospel. Peter had changed and because of this the world has never been the same either.
Humiliation never got the best of Peter. I wish I could say the same about myself. I am either too afraid to fail or when I do fail it is near impossible to get me to try again. In this way I really look up to Peter. I admire his failings because I admire his perseverance.
Now lets not make a mistake here, Peter was doing it wrong more often than he got it right. Just because he got back up and tried again does not mean we can overlook that he tried to murder a guy (he even goofed this and only hit the guy's ear). I bring this up because we cannot excuse our own wrong actions even when we do push through the humiliation and try once again to move forward. Their has to be an accounting for our own mistakes. Without it we never learn from our lessons.
What we can learn from Peter is that as we follow Jesus we will fail and be humiliated. But I am beginning to wonder if those miscues are necessary to break us of the thing that most easily separates us from God - our pride. Much of the subtext of Peter's role could easily be read as a prideful person always thinking they can achieve in their own strength. His constant failing, however, brought him into constant contact with the grace of Jesus. Ultimately, that is what made Peter into the power early church leader he became.