While Moses was also afraid, Jesus specifically said Simon Peter, the disciple, had a phobia. (See I Have a Phobia from 6/7/2019) Yes, Peter. That impetuous, impulsive, dare devil who often acted or spoke before thinking. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was bold enough to chop off the ear of the high priest’s servant’s ear, never mind his group only had two swords to confront the mob of people with swords and clubs, accompanied by 600 Roman soldiers. (see John 18:3) Obviously, his phobia didn’t cause him to be afraid to pull out a sword against all odds.
But was his phobia completely “cured?” Did he ever fail again after that? Absolutely. And that is so encouraging to us as we step out against our own fears (aka phobias) and begin to act like we’ve experienced restoration and can begin to encounter God doing infinitely more than our greatest request, our most unbelievable dream, and exceeding our wildest imagination.
After lopping off an ear, less than 24 hours later, Peter denied he even knew Christ. Looks like the phobia was still in charge. That phobia of certainty that he was a failure in ministry. Would never measure up. Peter identified himself as failure. He was on the verge of being launched into the ministry Jesus had given him, and now this major failure. Is it the end of ministry for Peter? How will Peter respond? How will we respond to failure? Are our failures the end of breakthrough in ministry for us? No! We can be FREE of our phobia of failure!
Peter’s phobia rises up again
Jesus, post-resurrection, reached out to Peter. I can’t help but think that His method was a powerful reminder to Peter.
1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:1-3 (NIV)
Peter, concluding his second chance at being a rabbi was doomed, went fishing. Just like the story in Luke 5, he caught nothing all night. Will his phobia win a total victory?
Jesus responds to Peter’s failure
Peter was so consumed with failure that he didn’t even recognize his friend, even though earlier he had asserted that he loved Jesus more than any of them and would never deny Him. (see Matthew 26:33-35 and Mark 14:31) John had to tell him it was Jesus. Looks like phobia of failure is winning. Peter didn’t even realize his failure was a phobia. His illogical, unreasonable, exaggerated fear.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John 21:4-6 (NIV)
How did Jesus respond to Peter’s failure? The carpenter directs fishing again. And this time they caught so many fish they couldn’t even haul them all in the boats. It must have been an even greater catch than the first one!
After providing such a great catch, Jesus prepared them breakfast. Huge catch. Breakfast. No condemnation. Just love and grace. I try to imagine the tender look on His face as He served them.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. John 21:10-12 (NIV)
What was going through Peter’s mind? I wonder if he was thinking about how he didn’t deserve this love and grace at all. I wonder if he was still thinking about his failures, certain he could never be a rabbi. Did he anticipate at all what Jesus did next? Phobias can be very consuming indeed.
Jesus addresses Peter as Simon
Peter denied Christ three times. Three times Christ asked him if he loved his Lord. I believe it was an act of forgiving and releasing Peter from each denial.
Notice that Jesus addressed him as Simon. Simon, the man who was prone to fear, concluding Jesus must believe he was now a failure at ministry. While the writers of the Gospels refer to him as Peter, Jesus only addressed him as Peter when He said that Peter would deny Christ three times. (see Luke 22:34). Otherwise, Jesus refers to Peter as Simon. Are you curious about that? I am. (photo via pixabay)
What might that imply for us? Like Simon, we often falter as we try to walk out our new, our transformation, our breakthrough opportunities. Simon means “that hears, that obeys.” He tried hard to listen and to obey. And failed. Caved to his fear. Stepped out of bounds with his assertions and sword. Yet, Jesus said he was Peter, the rock. (see Matthew 16:16) Peter, not Simon who would deny Him. God sees our humanness, our weaknesses. In spite of our failures, He sees what He can do as much more powerful than our weaknesses and failures. Perhaps Jesus was trying to remind Simon the only way he would be Peter was by depending on Jesus to qualify him. Otherwise, he would remain merely Simon. Jesus, the carpenter who could command a great catch of fish, is certainly qualified to help us.
Holy Spirit power enables achieving the purpose
Even after Jesus forgave him and restored his calling, Peter still stumbled and fumbled as a leader. He sometimes spoke first then though. Like me. In Acts 1, Peter stepped up as leader of the group that had witnessed the ascension of Jesus up into the heavens. When they had returned to Jerusalem after the ascension, Peter declared that in order for Scripture to be fulfilled, they needed to select someone else to fill the empty slot left by Judas on the Disciple Board. (see Acts 1:16-20 and Psalm 109.8) Peter laid out the guidelines for the appropriate candidate and they drew lots. Matthias was selected. I can’t find anything else about him in Scripture. There really isn’t much in the historical works of Josephus about him. Did Peter make a mistake? This decision isn’t very fruitful; there isn’t evidence that he made the correct choice. Was Paul the apostle God had chosen? (see Romans 1:1 for example) Is Peter still a failure?
Then Acts 2 happens. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, the One who would keep teaching them and guiding them because Jesus had told them He would never leave them as orphans. Peter then preached powerfully by the power of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 people accepted Christ and were baptized that day alone. Any pastor or priest would be thrilled and excited to see that growth. Thrilled and terrified all at once. But that growth explosion was just the beginning. Even so, God later had to show Peter a vision so he would understand God was including Gentiles, not just Jews. Peter, not perfect but willing.
Peter is experiencing more and more what Jesus meant about who he is. A fisher of men. It happened because Peter surrendered to the love and words of Jesus. Peter pointed out he had already fished all night and caught nothing yet he then let down his nets and they were filled to overflowing with fish.
What happens in restoration?
God restores us to the way He sees us from the beginning. Not that we become perfect, but God effectively says to us, “This is what I see in you. This is what I made you for.” God wants to let us know that He completely forgive us and restores the purpose He had for our lives. Even if it looks completely hopeless.
God first restores our identity. He never changed His purpose for us or way to think about us, but we do. For us, it is a new way to think about who we are. How we identify ourselves is significant. Do we identify ourselves the same way God does? God’s new identity for us is the way God sees us. I’m not referring to our legal name, but to the way we think and talk about ourselves. As we embrace the new identity God gives us, He continues to help us grow into what He has planned for us.
God then prepares us to fulfill the purpose He has for us.
I would never have thought God would use me at all. Many other people would have never thought it of Carol. Many said things that suggested Carol could never do anything. I had concluded those people were right. But God didn’t agree. He knows what His purpose was. And He designed me uniquely to accomplish that purpose. I had just lost connection with God and what He could do when I began to agree with who He said I was and surrendered to Him.
Who would He say you are? Do you now recognize any exaggerated fears that hinder you? Ask God to show you how He sees you. Allow Him to restore you to purpose and power. He will! Just like He did with Peter and Moses.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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FaceBook – Facebook.com/carolboggessauthor
 Hitchcock, Roswell D. Hitchcock’s Dictionary of Bible Names. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.