Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona"

As I've read the gospel of Mark, I've started to see how very real the people in these stories were. The details about Peter's character and personality especially have brought him alive to me. It's easy to think of prophets in the scriptures as higher beings who never mess up because of their superior spirituality. I'm not saying that I don't think Peter was an incredibly spiritual and faithful man, just that I've come to understand that he and the other disciples were human and it's been a great comfort to me.
Peter was definitely imperfect: he got confused about doctrine (Mark 9:5-6, 10), and at times openly challenged Jesus (Mark 8:32-33, 14:31). When Christ was in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter succumbed to his physical and probably emotional exhaustion, falling asleep at the most important time of his Master's life. In one of his most famous moments, Peter denied even knowing Christ.
Despite his imperfections, Peter still kept trying to faithfully follow his Lord. When Christ asked His disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter confidently answered, "Thou art the Christ." (Mark 8:29). He was fiercely loyal to Jesus, saying "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." He "left all" to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28) and even followed Him alone to the trial at Pilate's (Mark 14:54). Though he did fear and falter, Peter even had enough faith to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-31). He eventually became the head of the Church and a great missionary.
Peter inspires me because, despite his weaknesses, mistakes, and flaws, he persevered. He truly loved Jesus with all His heart, might, mind, and strength, and had the faith and solidity of a rock (for which he was named). He was weak, but He let Christ make His weaknesses into strengths. Reading Peter's story helps me to hope that if I love and follow Christ, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths and make me all that He wants me to be.
The gospel of Mark gives us such insight into Peter's character because it was actually written from Peter's memoirs. In New Testament, I learned that Peter and Mark actually served together in Rome, and it was Mark's interviews with Peter that served as the main source for the gospel of Mark, along with several other eyewitness accounts. The witness of Peter and many others bring a dimension of reality and applicability to the gospel that could not be found in dry, secondhand historical facts. This drives home to me the importance of writing and sharing our own gospel experiences. As we hear of each others' hardships, rejoicings, and epiphanies, we can become enriched and gain hope and knowledge for ourselves. Keeping a journal can help spread our stories to future disciples, but I think we can have even more immediate results. I've noticed that as I participate in and initiate conversations about spiritual insights, I learn from others' thoughts and become more open to my own personal revelation. Some great conversations with my roommate have started during scripture study with, "Hey Andria, what do you think of this verse?" Let us all strive to be witnesses for the gospel, both by standing up for our beliefs and for sharing our experiences and learning with those around us.

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