Peter, the big fisherman, is not portrayed in the New Testament as a great star. The character profile is far from flattering. Loud-mouthed, ill-educated, uncultured, cowardly, slow to grasp the point and, as some have said, every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. Now I have no brief to defend Peter’s record, even though I remember that much of this self-revelation comes from Peter’s own public admissions (for Mark’s Gospel reflects the preaching of Peter over twenty years – and no one could ever accuse the gospel writers of trying to do a whitewash job on Peter, or on anyone else). But there is one superb word of Peter which I am thinking about today, which reveals more of Peter’s insight into our human condition than many a library of books. It occurs towards the end of Chapter 6 in John’s Gospel, which, you remember, deals with such images repellent to anyone, but especially to Jews, about ‘eating his flesh and drinking his blood’. This vivid, and in some ways startlingly horrific image, he later explained was not meant literally:
“It is the Spirit that gives life.The flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63).
As a result of all this: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6: 66-69
There you have the crux of the human dilemma. If not to Jesus, to whom shall we turn? He alone is the way and the goal. He alone is why we are here on earth. To whom else can we go when we are sick of ourselves, when we know we are lost, when we are homesick for God? When we cry “There’s got to be something better than this!”, then where do we go if not to Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God? who knows us through and through and knows our deepest needs. We are so privileged and so blessed that we can turn to Jesus.
A Prayer (from St. Augustine, as old as 354 A.D., and new as today) Watch then dear Lord, with those who wake or watch or weep tonight, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep.Tend thy sick ones, O Lord Christ Rest thy weary ones. Bless thy dying ones. Soothe thy suffering ones. Pity thine afflicted ones. Shield thy joyous ones. And all for thy love’s sake. Amen.
Now read John 1: 43-57.