Peter (one of Jesus’ closest friends) often seems like two different people. In one moment he’s lopping off an ear. In the next he’s running away. At one instance he’s walking on water. In another he’s terrified of drowning.
It seems as if Peter just isn’t very consistent.
Which means he’s just like you and me.
All of this comes into play just before Jesus is arrested. Jesus and a few disciples head out to pray. Jesus knows what’s about to happen. He knows he’s going to die in a way very few of us can imagine. All he wants to do is pray, and have his friends stay with him. But despite Peter’s best efforts, Peter keeps falling asleep.
Jesus is understandably upset with Peter, and says something profound: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That line sums up our existence pretty nicely. We have all experienced moments where we want to do the right thing. But when that moment comes, something happens. We end up not following through. We become afraid. Pride takes over. Greed overwhelms us. Whatever it is, we end up caving.
Peter, despite his best intent, ended up running away.
But as I said, you and I aren’t that different from Peter. What sets Peter apart is the fact Peter said the things you and I think. If Jesus told us, “you will deny me.” We might think “yeah right! No way Jesus!” But Peter didn’t seem to have much of a filter between thought and talking – so he actually said it.
It’s a shame that Peter is sometimes portrayed as a coward. In many ways he never stood a chance. He always wanted to do the right thing, but his flesh was weak.
I don’t know what the takeaway from this is, other than maybe we need to give ourselves some more slack when we screw up. And I think be a little more like Peter. Because no matter how publicly he messed up, he always came back to give it another try.