Bold, brash, belligerent, impetuous, Simon Peter was the perfect leader in that he was always out in front — sometimes too far, but in front. He beat everybody to the tomb after the women reported seeing Jesus alive. He was the one who drew his sword and cut off the guard’s ear when Jesus was being arrested. He got tired of waiting for the Holy Spirit as Jesus had told them to do and went back to fishing, and when he found out Jesus was on the shore, he immediately dove into the water and beat the boat back. He saw Jesus walking on the water once and said, “Hey, can I join you out there?”
These characteristics could either work for him or against him. In almost the same breath, Jesus commended Peter for knowing He was the Messiah and then told him “Get behind me, Satan,” when he tried to rebuke the Lord for predicting how He was going to die. The title of Malcolm Boyd’s best-seller from the ‘60s, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? pretty much captures Peter, especially early on, when the answer to the question would have been a resounding, “No, I’m not, Peter. You’re not running with me.”
Peter’s path from his denials to his first sermon at Pentecost is a rocky, on-again, off-again one, including picking a replacement for Judas. There’s no mention that he received any instruction from the Lord on this. He found a prophecy about it in Psalms and decided to nominate two people and then pray and draw straws. Does that sound like God’s way of doing things? It sounds more like Peter gathering everybody together as soon as Jesus was gone saying, “Okay guys, here’s what we’re going to do …”
And yet when the Holy Spirit came upon them and the 120 believers who had been meeting together, waiting for this moment, began proclaiming the wonders of God in other languages in the public square so that all the Jews who had come to Jerusalem from other regions to celebrate the Passover heard the new Christians praising God in their native tongues, that’s when Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, got up in the square without notes or preparation, opened his mouth and a sermon came out that brought 3,000 people to believe in Jesus that very day. And thus was the beginning of the church.
This should give us all hope. Some of us run ahead; some of us run behind. We all have human hang-ups and idiosyncrasies, but all of us have the Holy Spirit who will empower us and make the difference if we but show up trusting Him to be there with us.
Marti says that before I go on stage to sing or speak, I’m a wreck. I barely know my name. I have to have my notes or list of songs to hold onto. But push me out there and I’m suddenly The Entertainer, in full command of what I’m saying and doing because the Spirit speaks to me and through me — notes or no notes. Go figure.
Life is a kind of stage for all of us. We are expected to perform certain tasks and shoulder certain responsibilities. We do this every day. The Spirit of God is ready to take over, but we have to show up believing Him. We have to get ourselves out there, and, like Peter, after all is said and done, we end up doing what we thought we couldn’t do, and opening our mouths and marveling at what comes out.