Something that often strikes me when reading the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – is their earthiness. There is something raw, unpolished, and therefore real about these four eye-witness accounts of Jesus Christ. It has the ring of the genuine. Their portraits of Christ and the twelve apostles are absolutely not photo-shopped.
One clear instance is the un-photo-shopped Peter. Peter was hand-picked by Jesus at the very beginning of his three-year ministry. Peter was a common man. A fisherman by trade. Really, had the Savior not singled him out, he would have lived and died a nameless nobody in the backwoods of Judea. But Jesus changed all that.
Peter’s character is intriguing. This very real man, this Peter, was in the first case Peter the fearless. When Jesus came walking on the water towards his boat on the stormy Sea of Galilee, it was Peter who wanted to walk towards him. And out he went at Jesus’ call.
It was Peter who stood up for his master at the betrayal. Armed with sword, passionate Peter threw himself into action … until, that is, Jesus told him to stop. “The cup that my Father has given me to drink, shall I not drink it?”
Peter the fearless was also Peter the faithful. He was not like many of us fence-sitters. When he cast in his lot for Jesus, he was pro-Jesus all the way. Fiercely loyal, he stuck on when others found Jesus too complicated. “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” After Jesus went to heaven, Peter faithfully led the early church through the fires of persecution until he finally suffered martyrdom in Rome. Tradition has it that he was crucified like his Master – only, upside down at his request. He felt himself unworthy to suffer exactly like his Lord, who shed His blood to forgive Peter’s sins.
Which leads us to Peter the flawed. Yes, he was bold. Yes, he was outspoken. But oftentimes, that got him into hot water. Peter was a blurter. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother. Up to seven times?” How pious he thought he was! That is, until Jesus burst his bubble. “Seventy times seven,” Peter!
And how he over-estimated his own courage. When Jesus predicted that all his disciples would on that night fall away from him, Peter was shocked. Not me! “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” And yet that very night, just as Jesus foretold, he denied Him three times. Then, connecting eyes with the arrested Jesus, Peter left and wept uncontrollably.
Above all, though, we see in the Gospels Peter the favored. Was Peter a cut above because he saw in Jesus what others didn’t? That’s not how Peter felt. Jesus had been kind to Peter. Patient with him. Even when he was skeptical, hard-headed, and downright unteachable. Yet Jesus overwhelmed Peter with His grace, causing Peter once to fall down at His feet, crying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” You see, Peter was favored because forgiven. And forgiven because favored from eternity past. Many were called, but “few,” including Peter, were “chosen.”
But the story of the un-photoshopped Peter comes in a far second to the greater story there. The very credible story of Peter only calls our attention to the the Word made flesh. And the Jesus whom Peter followed was no fantasy. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables,” Peter later wrote, “when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
In this world of pretension and falsehood, we need reality. We need truth, un-doctored and un-photoshopped. The Gospels give us exactly that. An un-photoshopped apostle – and infinitely better, an un-photoshopped Savior!