As a pastor who must earn his living outside of the support of the church, I often think of Peter. I mean, in carpentry, which is my trade, my hands get beat up, pants get dirty, and hair gets messy. I am often covered in sawdust, or wet after having worked in the rain. My body is often physically drained and fatigued. I have become good friends with the short nights, physical wear and tear, and mental exhaustion. Then I think of what is often expected from pastoral candidates these days and I chuckle, “Surely, I would not be a very good candidate in this condition!” The unwritten attitude of today’s pastoral candidate is, “I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg…” (Luke 16:3), and that is exactly how many churches want it to be! Given this observation, if Peter himself showed up in order to be a candidate at any one of today’s churches, I am afraid they would not even consider his résumé. He just would not be the man they would want representing “their” church.
Consider this man, Simon Peter;
- PETER WAS A HARD WORKER: “Master, we worked hard all night…” (Luke 5:4-5). This tells me that Peter was not afraid to expend his body in his trade. He was a man like the rest of us and my guess is that he really got into his work. I am sure his hands and legs bore the scars from such activity.
- PETER WAS A SELF-MADE MAN: “…they were fisherman…” (Matthew 5:18). This type of man tends to be very independent. As well as capable, self-willed, and manly. It’s a good assumption that his family lived off of what Peter and Andrew caught.
- PETER WAS DIRTY: “…they were washing their nets…” (Luke 5:1-2). The nets that held their captured fish became filthy after use so Peter, being a good fisherman, had to get dirty as he cleaned his equipment. They would have had to manhandle the nets in such a way that would require them to “wear” the fish. Undoubtedly, Peter smelled like his work.
- PETER WAS UNCOUTH AND UNSOPHISTICATED: “…So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea…” (John 21:7). There is no indication here that Peter was concerned with his near-bare appearance. Granted, it was nighttime when they would ply their trade. However, the sensitivities for what is appropriate for public viewing seemed to not affect this man. Some concern was apparent, however, because once he heard it was the Lord at the shore, he dressed himself (the passage gives the sense that Peter cared to some degree about his exposure. Otherwise, it seems likely he would have impetuously left his outer garment in the boat in order to hurry to see Jesus). Yet, overall, Peter does not give anyone the impression of a man who was dainty, refined, or sophisticated.
- PETER LACKED RELIGIOUS TRAINING AND EDUCATION: “…[the priests] understood that they were uneducated and untrained men…” (Acts 4:13). This fact was evident to the priests and elite of Israel. As a northerner, Peter would not be familiar with the vocabulary that is learned among those of higher education.
Now, in addition to all of this, recall that Peter also had glaring failures in his discipleship as well.
- HE WAS OFTEN RELUCTANT to simply do what Jesus told him to do: It is first seen in his hesitation to let down the nets immediately. When he did, it appears he was not expecting any kind of catch from it (Luke 5:5).Then in the garden he was told to “watch and pray” and instead fell asleep (Matthew 26:26-36). Lastly, he refused to eat of the animals on the sheet even though Jesus told him to (Acts 10:9-16).
- HE WAS WILLING TO KEEP JESUS off of the cross in a moment of pride, even going as far as to take Jesus aside to rebuke Him (Matthew 16:21-23).
- HE WAS WILLING TO FIGHT the entire band of priests and soldiers coming to arrest Christ with a single sword. I would assume he thought that Jesus and the rest of the men would rally behind him and attack (John 18:10)! The action proves a misunderstanding of Christ’s mission.
- IN THE COURTYARD, HE DENIED that he was an associate of Christ three different times (Matthew 26:69-75). These three different betrayals, although somewhat private, was more than Judas’ singular betrayal which lead to Jesus’ execution. After all, Jesus did say in His teaching, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
- LATER, MONTHS AFTER JESUS’ ASCENSION, Peter plays the hypocrite by associating with Gentiles when the Jews were not around, but disassociating with them when they were (Galatians 2:11-13).
Today’s candidate for many pulpits demands that the man be refined, cultured, and aware of the sophistication that supposedly exudes from the position. He must be a vision-caster and enthusiastic. He must be good with people: a soul-winner, self-confident, and mentally stable. Yet, in Peter alone, we have a man who was few, if any, of these qualities. Rather, he was a rough, blue-collar man, that was far from being sophisticated. Peter gives the impression of a man who has little concern with anyone’s vision, other than his own, and his initial effect on people was probably not very positive. Irregardless of these characteristics, he was the man Jesus Christ chose to become the “rock” of the church.
The church needs men like this in her pulpits. Men like Peter tend to have many weaknesses and blemishes that are easy to spot. However, when a man like Peter is forgiven, restored, and filled with the Spirit of God, he will be a very powerful tool in the hands of His Redeemer.