Peter: "Repenting"

Graceful Leaders - Biblical Encouragement for Leaders

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:72

Sometimes we can be like Simon Peter when we lead. We can be bold, even brash – the first and maybe the only one to step out of the boat and go wave-walking. Maybe we just say what needs to be said. We put it out there and let the chips fall where they may.

Simon Peter could say more than he even understood. Once Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” There was an embarrassing silence, and, sure enough, Simon Peter burst our saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-20).  He got that one right. It was good, though, that Jesus didn’t ask, “Tell me, Simon, what exactly do you mean by that?” because Simon didn’t have a clue. He’d learn later what his own words fully meant, but Jesus took His words and said He would build His church on them. It was then that Simon got the nickname Peter, which is Greek for “Rocky.” It was an apt nickname. His confession of faith became the rock on which the church is built, but his leadership was as rocky as rocky can be.

At other times Peter’s run-at-the-mouth leadership received a clear put down from Jesus. When Jesus said he would have to suffer and die in Jerusalem, Peter jumped in and “rebuked” Jesus for even saying such a thing (Mark 8:32). Imagine a disciple rebuking Jesus! There is a word in Yiddish for Peter here. It’s hutzpah (huts-pa), defined as “the trait of being rude and impertinent; inclined to take liberties.” In this case, Jesus looked hutzpah in the face and said, “Get behind me, Satan.” (Mark 8:33).

Then there was the denial. Deflated of all his bravado, Peter is overcome by fear as he sees Jesus arrested, under trial, and sure to be crucified. He denies knowing Jesus, not once but three times, just as Jesus said he would. Of course, Peter said it would never happen, but here it was. When Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:61), it all came down on him. Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Peter’s leadership was so strong that, even after his denial of Jesus, when Easter morning came and Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty, it was to Peter she went (John 20:2). Luke tells us that Peter got up first and began (with John) the great Easter sprint to the tomb (Luke 24:12; John 20:1-9). When his running companion, John, got there first, John waited for Peter to enter the tomb.  Finally, on the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus gives Peter a chance to reaffirm his love for Him, not once, but three times, one to offset each denial. Brash, bold, unthinking, sometimes right, sometimes devastatingly wrong, Peter is still a leader.

To watch Peter lead is to see that leadership often takes courage “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  It takes something else, though – the humility to know when you’ve been wrong and to say it, to go to the Lord and find a love so strong you’d be crucified upside down before you’d ever let Him down again. For every brave heart there must be tears as well.  Boldness and humility – an odd combination for sure, but the essence of Christian leadership!

Graceful Leaders is a series of meeting devotions designed for staff and lay leaders of Christian congregations. The series uses Biblical leaders as embodiments of grace-filled leadership in the church. The series is written by Dean Nadasdy, President, Minnesota South District, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Copies may be made and distributed within local congregations.