Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This He said to show by what death He was to glorify God.) And after this He said to him, “Follow me.” John 21: 18-19 (From the Eleventh Eothinon Gospel of Sunday Orthros) Monday of the 4th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The Apostle Peter provides us yet another (there have been so many of these!) example of a follower of Christ who was devout in his faith, who took a few wrong turns but in the end got it really right.
In Matthew 16:13-18, we read:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus asked the Disciples, who did they think He was, it was Peter who jumped up first to confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And yet in the very next few verses of scripture, Jesus chastised the same Peter who He had just told would be the rock of the church:
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
At the Last Supper, Jesus told His Disciples “You will all fall away because of Me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31-32). Immediately, Peter rose from the Disciples and declared “Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You.” (Matthew 26: 33-35)
And just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus three times. Unlike Judas, who betrayed Jesus and who killed himself, Peter went out and wept bitterly tears of repentance and stayed with the company of the Disciples.
In restoring Peter, Jesus not only forgave Him and restored Him to his place as the leader of the Disciples, Jesus told Peter that eventually he would “get it right”, predicting that Peter would indeed show “Agape” love for Christ in dying for Him as a martyr.
Peter shows us the best example of a devout follower of Christ who made his share of mistakes and still got it right. St. Paul didn’t start off as a follower of Christ. He was making many mistakes, persecuting and killing Christians but when he was converted to Christianity, he started living right. We aren’t told that St. Paul made many (or any) gaffes after He became a Christian. Peter, on the other hand, became a devout follower of Christ and still made many gaffes. There is no doubt that Peter was devout in his following of Christ. After all, he left his fishing business and followed. But there is also no doubt that Peter struggled at times, both to understand and to follow the teachings of Christ.
Peter provides us an example of what it is to believe and then to fall, and then to get up, and then fall again, and then get up, and repeat this cycle many times, but in the end to get it right. At the end he stood up for Christ, was killed for his faith, and received a heavenly crown from the Lord. At the end he got it right. And this is what the Lord’s hope is for each of us. He wants us to follow. He doesn’t expect us to get it right all the time. He expects us to repent and “stay with Him”, to pick up ourselves when we fall down. And in order to inherit eternal life, we need to make sure we have it right at the end. And this is facilitated most specifically by striving to get it right throughout life, and picking ourselves up, repenting and continuing in the Christian journey when we get it wrong.
The name of Rock have you worthily been given. On this rock the Lord of all confirmed the Church’s faith which is unshaken; and He made you, O Holy Peter, the senior pastor of reason endowed sheep. Therefore the benevolent Master appointed you to hold the keys of the heavenly gates, and thus to open to every person approaching them with faith. And you were therefore counted worthy of imitating your Lord, being crucified. We entreat you to pray Him to illumine us and save our souls. (From the Orthros of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Keep at it (your faith) today and if you get knocked down, get up again!
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