Peter is one of scripture’s most interesting characters. He was a man of sudden, keen insights yet at other times stunningly obtuse. He was brash and energetic, impetuous and full of good intentions.
In other words, Peter was utterly human, and this is probably why we identify so completely with him.
It was Jesus, of course, who saw the great potential in the raw and untried fisherman. In his first encounter, Jesus looked into his heart and saw what not even Peter saw in himself: “He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (Which means Peter)” (John 1:42).
First, note that “Jesus looked” at Peter. What was Jesus looking at? His face? His heart? The verb is continuous: Jesus “looked intently” at him.
Jesus called him a rock. Peter was anything but a rock, solid and dependable. Those whom God calls tend to be far from a finished product. In fact, the point of coming into relationship with Jesus is the opportunity to be fashioned into something better by the master craftsman. At the college in which I teach, we often say that if students came to us the finished product, we would be out of a job.
Jesus saw not what Peter was at that moment, but what he could potentially become. Thus it would be with Peter for the rest of his life. There were numerous times when Jesus had to spend some time knocking the rough edges off of Peter.
There was the time when he proclaimed Jesus as the son of God (Matthew 16:16), then just moments later was rebuked by the Lord for representing Satan’s point of view (Matthew 16:23). There was the time he blundered into the night, regretting his human weakness (Matthew 26:75), and the morning Jesus gently, firmly reinstated him (John 21:15-18). There was the day he puzzled over a vision regarding a cluster of unclean animals, and the day he declared he had learned a lesson about the value of all men (Acts 10:34,35).
Peter was a “becomer.” He was becoming what he could be, what Jesus knew he could be, what he needed to be. Like us, he was a work in progress. We can be grateful that Jesus saw the gem in the rough fisherman, and that he, perhaps, sees the gem in us.