” Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”John 21:18
The life of the Apostle Peter is so real, so earthy, so full of noble ambition and crushing failure it has to be genuine. We recognise the spirit of humanity in Peter.
With the best of intentions he promised to go with Christ to prison and to death. As the net closed in upon Jesus on that dreadful unforgotten night, Peter produced his sword, severing the ear of the High Priest’s servant; wielding the sword of the flesh he was without the spirit of prayer, so self reliant. He then went where no other disciple dared, to the High Priest’s palace where Christ was interrogated. He was a man of action, a bold individual, forceful and uncompromising.
Then dramatically courage failed. Challenged by a servant maid as to his identity he swore that he never knew Jesus, with oaths and curses. As the rooster crowed that morning Peter wept bitter tears.
The decades slipped past. Peter became a changed man; more thoughtful, less impulsive. His character traits have now been harnessed by the grace of God. As the leader among the disciples he accepted Paul’s place as the missionary of the Gentiles even though the pair had their occasional altercation over the years. Strong personalities!
Like Paul he too found himself in Rome in the 60’s AD. Peter had a strong affinity with the Roman Christians; Mark as his disciple wrote his Gospel for the Romans, largely based on Peter’s eye witness accounts. The companionship of these two is striking; both had failed the Lord, they found solace in each other.
The evidence does not exist that Peter became the first Pope thus beginning the apostolic succession, which underpins the character of the Roman Catholic communion.
Nevertheless, it was in Rome during Nero’s persecution that Peter met his grisly end. Unlike Paul he was not a Roman citizen, therefore greater cruelties awaited. Crucified as our Lord said he would be when recommissioned in John 21, he was faithful at the last; according to strong tradition crucified upside down. No denials, no outrage, only a quiet dignified resignation and satisfaction that as an old man he could go with His master to death itself. The spectre of past failure was finally put to rest.
In dying he left a testimony, not the profound extensive writings of Paul but terse simple statements; the kind of remarks we would expect from the fisherman apostle. After my death he pleaded, keep the things that I have taught you always in your mind (2nd Peter 1:14-15). Two thousand years later, they are not forgotten.
I love I love my master,
I will not go out free,
For he is my redeemer,
He paid the price for me