Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peter, Swordsman Extraordinaire

So, I was just thinking about how I've been slacking lately with the blog, and I decided to write another one. Here we go.

I love Peter. He is probably my favorite disciple. Why, you ask, do I like Peter more than, say, John, or Matthew? I love Peter partly because if I made a movie about the ministry of Christ, Peter would be the comic relief. He is the master of the non-sequitor and possibly the best swordsman in the land, able to cut off ears at a single blow. A good example of his incredible witticisms can be found in Mark's account of the transfiguration of Christ:
"And [Christ] was transformed before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white... and there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified" (Mark 9:2-6, emphasis mine).

So, Peter sees this glorious, incredible sight, and he doesn't know what to say. Understandable, given the circumstances. But he says something anyway: let's make three tents for you guys to... live... in... maybe? I can imagine the other disciples, terrified as they are, giving him one of those looks. What? It seems to be one of those times when something sounds fine in your head, but then you say it out loud and realize that what you just said was completely nonsensical. That's what happens to Peter.

Secondly, Peter has skills with the sword not possessed by any other biblical character. There they are in Gethsemane, surrounded by probably a decent-sized band of soldiers, armed and armored, and Peter draws his sword from his sheath. The guards are shocked, not expecting resistance, so nobody moves to stop him. Peter quickly steps forward and slashes at Malchus, the high priest's servant, who is stepping forward to take Jesus into custody. Everyone gasps as Peters sword comes down... and Malchus' ear drops to the ground, leaving him otherwise unscathed. How bad do you have to be with a sword to aim to kill somebody, and only get their ear? Not even, like, hitting their ear on the way down to the shoulder, but just the ear. Absolutely terrible.

The third reason, the greatest reason of all, that I love Peter is that he has trouble speaking clearly sometimes, and he is absolutely terrible at sword-fighting, but he does these things anyway. He knows he is not the greatest speaker. Yet his love for Christ is so strong that he wants to speak anyway, to say something meaningful, and next to that love, the fact that he fails is meaningless. He knows he can't do a thing with a sword. Yet his love for his rabbi causes him to draw anyway, to swing his sword, knowing that there is no way he can prevail against the trained Roman soldiers who have come to take Jesus away. He fights anyway, for love of his master.

Yes, he later fails, giving in to fear and denying his Lord and friend. But we see how much that failure torments him in the book of John. Peter, following the death of Christ, is hurting so badly that he goes back to his old occupation, that of a fisherman, for comfort. And yet he is not comforted, for they fish all night and do not catch a thing. Morning comes, and they see Jesus waiting on the shore. When Peter realizes who it is, he puts his robe on and jumps into the sea, swimming the hundred yards to the shore. I love this part most of all. He is still not thinking clearly, because we all know that clothes, especially long, flowing clothes such as they wore back then, make it much harder to swim. Of course he is not thinking clearly--his Lord and master, whom he betrayed, has come back to him, and Peter must see him again.

It is no accident, no coincidence, that it is Peter who gives the sermon at Pentecost and adds to the Kingdom of God three thousand souls. Peter could not speak well on his own, but he desired to, for love of Christ--that day, God used him, spoke through him, and saved three thousand in one day.

The last thing about Peter--the Bible does not tell us how he died, but tradition has it that he was crucified under Nero, around the same time as Paul. Specifically, he is said by several early church historians to have been crucified upside down--he told his executioners that he was not worthy to die in the same way as his Lord and asked to be crucified in that manner.

In Peter, we see great human weakness, and yet that weakness is made utterly insignificant by the imperfect yet still incredible love for Christ that dwells alongside it. We see that same weakness overcome by the power of God, as the one who previously had denied Christ out of fear is the same one who is unafraid and willing to die as Christ did. We share Peter's weakness--let us also share his love and zeal for Jesus Christ.

Oh, I almost forgot, this note was inspired by Five Iron Frenzy's song Far, Far Away. I strongly encourage you to give it a listen.

This post was written in 2010. And in 2014, I published my very own book, Simon, Who Is Called Peter. It's a First-Person narration, meaning it gets you inside the head of Jesus' most notorious disciple. However, it's also extensively footnoted, referencing dozens of commentaries and scholarly works on the life of Peter. CLint Arnold, Dean of Talbot School of Theology, calls it "an account that is both faithful to the biblical text and engagingly expressed," and Darian Lockett, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, describes it as "a comprehensive portrait of Peter that is delightfully and skillfully woven together with the fabric of the New Testament." If that sounds like something you'd like to read, check it out!

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this! Your blogs are always so...well-reasoned...with a dash of humor. :)