“You’re not looking at things like God does. You’re looking at them like a mere mortal!”
—Jesus to Simon Peter in Matt. 16:21-23
Like my sister, I didn’t pace myself through Jesus Journey. I know Trent intended it to be read in 40 days, but I actually read it all in one sitting because I simply could not put it down.
Trent and I are brothers, but we’re also deep friends and we’ve spent many hours laughing, discussing, and debating over the years—including one awe-inspiring moment on an 8 hour car journey when we hadn’t seen each other in a very long time and in mid sentence, my very jet lagged brother fell asleep while talking, only to wake up an hour later and somehow finish his sentence!
But our longest running topic and most wonderful subject has always been Jesus and trying to see Him more clearly. Those conversations shaped my life profoundly and I will always be grateful for the years that Trent and I got to live and lead together. We often discussed the people around Jesus, and Peter’s actions and personality and the way Jesus responded to him were a very common subject.
I’ve always loved Peter. Every time I encountered him in the Scriptures, even from my childhood, I was drawn to his brashness, his audacity, his boldness and his raw desire to take action… even when patience or a measured response would be better. Rereading some of the stories about Peter as I was making my way through Trent’s book, I was struck again with what a difficult and extraordinary man Peter really was.
It’s deeply moving that Jesus had such love for him.
And it wasn’t just love… Jesus really believed in Peter. In fact, Jesus believed in Peter much more than Peter believed in himself. Even though he had wild confidence and a tendency to open his mouth as soon as a thought hit his mind, Peter was sometimes afraid and, in some very revealing moments, deeply aware of his many flaws.
The first time Jesus encounters Peter in chapter five of Luke’s account, the miracle of fish appearing in the nets makes Peter fall to his knees and say to Jesus “Leave me Lord, I’m a sinner!”
Clearly, Peter had some inkling in that moment that this was more than just a mere man who stood before him on the shore.
This situation is mirrored at the end of John’s gospel, and Peter responds very differently: when he sees the nets miraculously jump with fish again, he “threw himself into the sea” to swim to Jesus though the boat wasn’t that far from the shore.
In between these two very different responses there are three years of friendship with the man Jesus; three years of conversation and discussion, frank rebuke and strong affirmation; promises and a betrayal; there is even a bewildered moment in a garden of quick violence and unexpected healing; and finally there is breakfast on a lonely shore with a last gentle correction.
The beautiful humanity of Jesus made a place for His friend Peter to become the man Jesus always knew he could be. And Jesus is still doing that very thing for all of us, His friends.
Like Peter, I often look at things like a mere mortal. I wade into problems confidently only to find I’m in over my head. I make passionate arguments that I sometimes wish I had made gently. I open my mouth so often when I should be silent. And I sometimes find myself explaining to Jesus that He just doesn’t understand how this works or how my way would be easier than His way this time…
I’m amazed that He puts up with me. I’m astounded that He loves me.
Even more, I am stunned by His faith in me and you and who we are—the friends of Jesus who are learning to look at things like He does...
In my various roles in the music industry, in community development in Northern Ireland and sub Saharan Africa, and as a husband and a father, the common thread is my desire to bend the arc of history towards justice and hope. It’s a desire that often brings out all of the worst Peter traits in me… I’m always jumping out of some boat or another, usually making a wildly passionate declaration as I slip under the sea!
But every time I sink beneath the waves trying to walk on the water and change the world, Jesus pulls me from the depths. And then He promptly calls me back out of the boat again.
My dear wise brother Trent reminds us all again of the wonderful human understanding of Jesus… helping His friends, even when it is painful, so we can see again, and in every instance, look at things more like God does.
Because when we do, we really can walk across the water of history, rewriting a story of hope over lives, cities, and culture.
Our friend Jesus believes in us and that changes everything.
Today's guest post is by my one-and-only big brother, Tré Sheppard (aka "Lenny"), who has taught me most of what I know about Jesus and justice and... errrm... comedy: Tré grew up in the Deep South of the USA, but has spent the last 24 years living in the UK. During that time he, his wife, and brother Trent founded and helped to lead a discipleship community with YWAM called "The Factory” connecting with 3000+ emerging young leaders from more than 50 nations. As the lead singer and songwriter of the band, Onehundredhours, he toured worldwide for 12 years, and helped to found EngageHIV, now known as E3 Initiative (http://e3initiative.org), fighting poverty and HIV in Africa for more than a decade. He's now the CEO of Hope & Fury Records, and is also an award winning producer and songwriter for bands and artists worldwide with songs he's produced and co written enjoying millions of streams and plays on Spotify and radio, including BBC Radio 1, NRK P3 and stations across America. Tré serves as one of the pastors of Causeway Coast Vineyard; has a passion for culture, justice, and equality; and has been a long time champion of young people and the poor. He’s married to his girlfriend from high school, Tori, and they have two teenage children, Aidan and Elena.
Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson