«But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren» (Luke 22:32).
WHILE IT’S TRUE THAT the Bible doesn’t mention anywhere that Peter was the first pope, it’s undeniable that the New Testament places him «first among equals.» Peter is mentioned first in every list of apostles; he was the first to come to Christ through the effort of another believer, the first apostle to see the risen Christ, the first to preach to the Gentiles, and—it must be said—the first to publicly apostatize. After being recognized as someone who even spoke like Jesus, Peter «began to curse and swear, saying, I l do not know the Man!’ » (Matthew 26:74).
Our Lord knew Peter would deny Him, and what did He do for this first apostate? Let’s read: «And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’ » (Luke 22:31, 32). There are two key points in this passage; let’s analyze them.
First, Peter’s fall did not take the Lord by surprise. He knew the apostle’s faith would be shaken when put on trial. However, Jesus prayed for Peter; He interceded so that when Peter failed, he would understand that he could return and renew his relationship with the Lord. The difference between Peter and Judas was not in their fall, but rather that Peter believed in restoration.
As Peter did then, we have also fallen. Our faith has probably faltered on occasion, more than once, but despite that, Christ is still interceding for us all. When past or present sin tries to aggrandize itself in our mind, and in that way crush our faith and our hope, let’s remember that God’s grace is much greater than our sin.
Second, Jesus knew Peter would return: «And when you have returned to Me . . » (Luke 22:32). Our Lord is so wonderful! Knowing that we abandon Him, He still has faith that we will return. Now then, when God restores us, He gives us a mission: «Strengthen your brethren.» May the experiences we have lived through make us sensitive, not insensitive.
Now is not the time for our old cowardice; let’s have the courage to be the first to help others.