Who is your favorite Biblical character? One of mine has long been Peter because, despite of how close he was to Jesus, he made many mistakes and committed many sins. From Michael Card comes The Fragile Stone, subtitled The Emotional Life of Simon Peter. It covers every encounter that Peter had with Jesus, as well as Peter’s life as a preacher, healer, prisoner, reconciler, and writer. I continue to enjoy each new book I read by Card.
What I like about Card is he does not claim to know all the answers but instead simply invites readers to share his journey into theological discoveries. In his introduction to The Fragile Stone, Card describes a visit to a church in Romania. There, Peter is depicted as robust, rugged, and strong. Card grew up with a different image instead of Peter. He viewed Peter as being as capable as any of us has being impetuous and weak. The reality, Card goes on to contend is that Peter was far more complicated than either portrayal. While Peter certainly lived up to his title of being the Rock upon which Jesus would build the church, along with being hot-tempered and passionate, Peter also remained entirely dependent on Jesus as his Master. In trying to find a true picture of Peter, Card searched the Scriptures, as well as talked to Catholics and to Protestants. Yet Card fully admits that some of what he writes is guesses. Still, his hope remains that in gaining a better understanding Peter, we might also realize a fuller awareness of Jesus, which is the ultimate goal of every Christian.
I respect too how thorough Card in his presentation of his discoveries, while remaining readable to an average Christian like me. Take for example the first chapter. So much of the lives of Peter and Jesus, writes Card, would be spent within the sight of the lake of Galilee. Card then describes this lake and the fishing business of Peter and his brother Andrew. He tries to imagine the appearance of the brothers based on their medieval depiction, as well as to describe the sights and sounds and smells of their fishing world. From there, he goes onto explain the purpose and outcome of this initial encounter between Peter and Jesus. Andrew seeks out his brother to tell him that he has found the Messiah and to take him to meet Jesus. When Peter and Jesus meet, Peter is given a new name. Jesus has already looked into Peter’s heart and seen who he will become. The rest of the chapter expounds upon what that new name means, as well as offers comparisons to other times when Biblical characters have received a new name from God. In the remaining twelve chapters in part one of The Fragile Stone, Card draws on various portions of the Gospels to detail other encounters of Peter with Jesus, both the reaction of Peter and their significance to him.
In part two, Card turns from the Gospels to Acts and even briefly to the letters of Peter to round out his portrayal of the disciple whom Jesus renamed from Simon to Cephas (or Peter). What I treasure about these sections is how they further reveal how multi-dimensional Peter remained. Yes, Peter prayed to be released from prison. Yet when his prayer was answered, Peter at first thought he was simply seeing a vision. Yes, God himself orders Peter to eat all manner of animals. Yet as prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter said no three times. And yet despite those failures, Peter also experienced moments of great faith. Against the wishes of the religious leaders, Peter preached and healed. One of those healings, done with the power of Jesus, is even of a dead woman. And finally Peter writes two letters to the persecuted church.
Although I’ve long heard of Michael Card in the music industry, it’s as author of Christian nonfiction I’ve most grown to appreciate him. Card notes in his introduction that when he began his research, he found plenty of books on Paul, as well as of esteemed Christian saints, but few about Peter. I thank him for taking the time to write about this disciple who is the central character of many of the stories of the Gospel and is referred to almost 200 times in the New Testament.
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