Today is my son Peter’s birthday. He is named for Peter in the New Testament, because, while Jesus may have loved John the most, I love Peter best of all. I love him because he is so willing to get wet.

Peter gets famously wet when he tries to walk to Jesus across a stormy sea (Matthew 14:22-33). We focus, naturally, on Christ’s words, as he gently rebukes Peter for letting his faith give way to fear. But still, Peter is the one who got out of the boat! Here Peter’s weakness and strength are inextricably intertwined–he is impetuous; he acts before he thinks. He eagerly tries to go toward Jesus, then thinks and becomes afraid. I often think that Jesus was teasing his loved disciple just a little when he said “Thou art Peter; upon this rock I build…” Peter is, of course, no rock, at least not at the beginning. He is volatile and unstable. But Christ sees the eagerness, the quick and passionate love, the willingness to dive, headlong and heedless, into his work.

At the last supper, when Jesus explains that the disciples must allow him to wash their feet–“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8)–Peter’s response is quick. “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Peter gives all of himself to his impulse, his desire to be one with Jesus. A few hours later, of course, he will give himself again entirely to his fear, and will betray his love. But this warm-hearted, hot-headed betrayal is somehow utterly different from Judas’ coldly calculated betrayal. Perhaps we are given this example to remind us that we will have to take risks in our love of the Savior, go beyond what is reasonable, beyond what we are capable of, and that we can be forgiven for falling into the deep water of fear, if only we will also take the risk of trying to go to him, trying to love him more than we can.

My favorite example of Peter getting wet is in the last chapter of the book of John, when the disciples see the risen Jesus on the shore of the sea of Tiberias. John’s account tells us that they are not far from land when the man on the shore directs them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and the nets become miraculously full. Realizing that the man must be Jesus, Peter grabs his coat and jumps into the water. I love this image of Peter most of all–unprepared (naked!), unthinking (of course it would have been quicker to get to shore in the boat) Peter runs toward the Lord he loves, awkwardly clutching his coat around him. You know how silly people look when they run through shallow water; Peter must have been a sight. And he didn’t care, didn’t think; he let himself be propelled by uncomplicated love and joy.

I love the rest of the story, too–the disciples marvelling over their catch (one of them apparently taking time to count that there were exactly 253 fish, and trying to account for the unusual tensile strength demonstrated by the net in this instance) and eating breakfast on the beach with God. With God! And then Jesus teasing Peter a little, one last time, knowing that making him a little mad is the best way to get him to be determined, rousing his weakness which is his great strength, goading him into being a rock after all.

This is my Peter’s eighth birthday, his first chance to show his willingness to get wet. He is earnest and a little solemn about preparing for baptism–when we spoke in Family Home Evening about what it means to take Christ’s name, he said, “well, you know how you’re always saying ‘in our family, we don’t hit,’ or ‘in our family, we do chores before we play’? I think taking Christ’s name means that you have to do things the right way for his family.” My Peter is concerned about doing things right. I hope as he gets older he will learn from the Peter for whom he is named that the rules of Jesus’ family aren’t so very complicated, that if we are ruled by love, Love will rescue us from the storm of our fears, wash us from our sins, and invite us to feast together, as friends.

32 comments for “Peter

  1. Thanks for posting this, Kristine. Wonderful as always.

    My favorite story about Peter is the story of the betrayal. We like, I think, to belittle Peter for his betrayal, but I understand it perfectly – he was afraid. His friend has been taken away from him by the army of occupation and it’s rumored that they’re coming after his friends, too. Crucifixion was a horrible, nasty, brutal way to die, and he didn’t know what what happening except that it didn’t look good and he didn’t want to die. And we he realized what he had done, he was broken-hearted.

    I contrast that Peter with the Peter in Acts, who boldly testified before the Sanhedrin about Jesus and who he was and how he had died, knowing what the consequences would be, but with a witness now that he hadn’t really had before.

    According to Wikipedia:

    Later traditions about Peter hold that the Romans crucified him upside-down by his request; he did not want to equate himself with Jesus. On the way to his execution, it is said, he encountered Jesus and asked: “Domine, Quo Vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”). Other versions of this story claim that this occurred as Peter was fleeing Rome to avoid his execution; Jesus’ response, “I am going to Rome, to be crucified again,” caused him to turn back.

  2. Peter’s personality is a fascinating study in the scriptures. I also love the fact that he jumps out of the boat — that he wants to literally experience and do what the Savior does. One of the verses that I find myself pondering continually is the one where the Savior instructs Peter, saying ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” What’s interesting about that statement is that it occurs after the Mt. of Transfiguration event as well as after Peter has witnessed many miracles and born his testimony. Yet Peter is still in need of being converted. So Peter is a living embodiment of the concept that human beings who have joined the Church and been baptized still are in a process and a transitional period where they must grow and learn.

  3. Excellent post. Forgive my ignorance but I wonder why this point about Peter’s denial wasn’t brought up:

    > “I once heard President Spencer W. Kimball offer an alternative interpretation of Peter’s behavior. In a talk to a BYU audience in 1971, President Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, said the Savior’s statement that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed just might have been a request to Peter, not a prediction. Jesus might have been instructing his chief Apostle to deny any association with him in order to ensure strong leadership for the Church after the Crucifixion.“
    (Bruce C. Hafen “On Dealing with Uncertainty,” Ensign, Aug. 1979)

    The first time I heard this idea, I was skeptical. But as I revisit the “betrayal” in light of Peter’s other actions (particularly his desire to single-handedly fight the whole mob in Gethsemane). It makes sense to me that he wept bitterly, not because he let his Master down, but because he wouldn’t be able to die with Him. Brave, impetuous Peter had to endure watching his Lord crucified and **not do anything about it**.

  4. Thanks Kristine. Peter is my favorite too. He tries so hard to understand, to be good, and to love the Lord, but again and again he stumbles and fumbles….. then he’s put in charge!

    Your Peter is great, and so I wonder what the original Peter’s mother must have been like. I imagine that she must have been something like the Savior — kind, firm, and filled with the Spirit. I wonder if she had the gifts that you possess. I doubt that she was a brooding Swede, however.

  5. My favorite scripture about Peter is found in Luke, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

    We often focus on the last line of that passage when discussing missionary work but I am more intrigued by the first part. I have always been overwhelmed by the concept of the Savior praying specifically for one person – Peter, and how he might have felt hearing the Savior say this. But then I realize that He does that for each of us everyday in his capacity as our advocate with the Father.

    On a more technical note, the story of Peter being “crucified” upside down is one that I have heard before. In fact I once saw it depected in a Hollywood epic. But I’m not sure that the Romans would have gone for Peter’s request. The actual process of crucifixion as described in the attached document might not be as effective if the victim is hanging upside down. Call me a skeptic.

  6. Its a good thing I am not biased at all about Peter, the apostle or my nephew. That being said, it was wonderful to read about the two together, and to think about the connection between the two Peters, especially as my nephew Peter put it, as part of “Christ’s family.” When we have the opportunity to think of the Apostles or anyone from the scriptures, or figures from the past as part of our family, our ability to relate to them and learn from them is magnified. More importantly, at least in my view, our understanding of our own position and our own importance in Heavenly Father’s plan is made deeper and more fulfilling. The idea that Peter was impetuous and hot-headed and still could serve as one of the 12 apostles helps us understand that just because we may be stubborn or insensitive at times, our opportunities to serve our Savior or join him in his mansions above will be just as meaningful and sublime as Peter’s in the New Testament.
    Whether or not I get to watch Peter my nephew get baptized this weekend, I am struck by the beauty of his naming and the power that name has to bring me closer to the Apostle Peter by watching a nephew grow and learn and exhibit both some of the hot headedness of Peter and a capacity to love unflinchingly and without shame. I often laugh at the memory of Peter and his sister and brother screaming for me at a race several years ago, their piercing cries ringing out above everything else. His ability to ignore everything else and voice his support and love for me leaves me hoping that I can someday be as willing to ignore the world and unabashedly show my love for my Savior. Even if my voice isn’t quite as shrill!

    Happy Birthday to Peter and thanks Kristine.

  7. Re. comment #5,

    Pres. Kimball (or Apostle) wrote an article entitled “My Friend Peter” wherein he discusses at greater length the idea of Peter being charged by the Lord to deny Him. But alas, I can’t remember which issue of the Ensign it appeared in. It was back in the 70’s if memory serves me right…

  8. Thanks Kristine. My little one’s middle name is Peter, for many of the reasons you list. He often insists that we call him Peter.

    Happy birthday to your Peter.

  9. I love Peter, also. The apostle. Although, since Kristine and I are now engaged, I guess I will come to love Peter the little boy, as well.

    I did a study, on my own, when I was teaching the 15 year olds in Sunday School, really researched out all the original apostles, and it was awesomely revealing. They were ALL imperfect. Hey, that’s life.

    But these guys, they died for the Savior. They served Him the rest of their lives, they traveled all over the place. Most died martyrs deaths.

    It was really interesting to follow their lives, the Catholics claim to most of their “relics” I guess that’s bones, they are in the Vatican, mostly.

    I don’t think I could be a prophet, but Peter’s example says I can be a pretty go me, despite my faults and shortcomings. Yeah, I love that. He was human.

  10. Thank you for this beautiful birthday tribute to your son, Kristine, and his upcoming baptism. As always, you show yourself to be a loving mother, a good person, and a thoughtful Saint.

    I have, on occasion, imagined a scene from near the end, a confrontation between one of lead apostles and Jesus. Most likely John, since the scriptural record implies that he believed that he understood Jesus’s mission most fully out of all of His disciples (which he, in fact, did), and thus felt the greatest sense of attachment and protection towards Him. Jesus spent His days in exhausting service, preaching, and prayer, surrounded by supplicants and children; perhaps, thought John, He doesn’t realize what a viper Judas is? Surely He must be warned. I’ve wondered about that hypothetical encounter, and how Jesus may perhaps have replied to John’s loving but perhaps just slightly presumptuous warning. Of course He was aware of Judas’s greed. But what were the sins of His other apostles? Thomas? Plagued by doubt! James and John? Not untouched by pride (perhaps pushed along by their mother)! And Peter? Here I imagine Jesus pausing, and perhaps smiling, just a little. Peter is full of fear. But fear…fear is a passion, and passions can be redirected, redeemed, and reborn as something both great and humble, and not at all lukewarm. I remember my favorite scene from my favorite of C.S. Lewis’s books, The Great Divorce, wherein a man with wicked passions–visualized as an lizard perched on his shoulder, whispering in his ear–allows them to be killed by an angel, only to see them (after a moment of great pain) transformed into a powerful horse, which the man then rides on up into God’s mountains. While all around him, otherwise good people who embraced God and life only with their minds, keeping their hearts wrapped up and hidden, remain shadowy and damned and in their place.

    A man like Peter leaps into the water, though his terror will yet overwhelm him, while Thomas remains on the boat, wondering if he’s seen a ghost. The heart goes down to the river; the mind doesn’t move, and stays high and dry. Would that we could all have more of Peter’s passion for getting wet, and willingness to stumble through the surf.

  11. Kristine, beautiful post, and Happy Birthday to your Peter. As with many readers, Peter is my favorite as well. I suppose I love him for being flawed. In fact, most of my favorite scriptural characters are those presented with flaws, who willingly own up to their own personal spiritual growth journeys. I think the older I get, the more I become disenchanted with the LDS penchant for presenting a sheen of perfection. We all know that we all sin and we all are going through the messy process of mortality and perfection, yet we are so unwilling to share that with those around us. Peter gives me hope.

  12. Re: Not #5 and #10

    While in English the phrase “you will” can be a command or a statement of fact, in the Greek underlying the phrase, there is a clear distinction.

    SWK did not know Greek, but the greek verb is in the idicative sense (a statement of fact) and not the imperative (a command). There is a clear difference in Greek. Christ DID NOT tell Peter to betray him. It was a prophecy.

    But Peter’s story is a great one. A man who went on to preach at the day of Pentecost – oh, heck. The initial post is beautiful enough. I won’t go on.

  13. What a beautiful post, Kristine. I love it when people give their children good names for good reasons. Happy birthday to your son!

  14. I hope Peter will discover this post some day and read it (if he hasn’t already). What a wonderful present.

  15. Peter’s willingness to walk on water and his inability to actually do it was the topic of both my farewell and my homecoming. It’s one of those stories that never get old, like the Fall. Of course, in many ways it is the same story as the Fall.

  16. Kristine,
    your writing is as excellent as Peter was and as your Peter promises to be. Thank you for giving us a Message fit for the Man.

  17. Wonderful post. The more I think of how Christ and Peter related, the more it makes me dizzy! Calling him a rock! Calling his faith little! How many times was Christ teasing Peter, criticizing him but with an undercurrent of, er, backhanded affirmation and love?

  18. Happy birthday, Peter!
    I have a special affection for Peter the apostle, too. My mother for a time thought she would call me Peter.

  19. Ben, we planned on naming our Peter Benjamin. How he came to be Peter instead is a mildly miraculous story of its own.

  20. Kristine — I will add to the chorus that this is beautiful! But now I want to know the naming story ….

  21. Happy Birthday, Peter! My own daughter turns 8 in just 2 weeks. I hope you end up remembering more about your baptism than I do mine.

  22. Someone told me once that they told her in Institute that Peter was COMMANDED to deny Jesus. It wasn’t prophesy, it was an order. I don’t see that interpretation in it, myself. I think it’s a stretch. But she believed it was doctrine because they taught her so in Institute.

    I haven’t seen that anywhere. But I’m throwing it into the discussion in case someone else has been taught that and knows where it comes from.

    Happy Birthday Peter! And a spiritual “swim at church” (that’s what mine called it, with awe in their voices, when they were littler.)

  23. Kristine, this is beautiful. Peter is lucky to have a mom who can add so much meaning and depth to his name and baptism.

  24. Thank you Ivan; mine was in response to yours. What you said has more credibility, or at least I assume so, being ignorant of Greek and so much more–but the other is being taught, apparently, in Institute classes as official doctrine.

  25. Belated caution re post #17

    Proposition: As no original manuscripts remain to prove the compositional language(s) of the Gospels; as there is no consensus amongst scholars or historians about the use of Greek in those originals; as most of the relied-upon, copied texts for the KJV are distant from the original authors by several hundred years; as interpretive choices in translation work, even by well-meaning translators, can, and often do, change meaning and intent (not to mention, “correctiveâ€? or “correlativeâ€? interpolations made by copyists and translators); therefore, it is questionable whether we know the precise words spoken by the Lord and whether the words have been accurately transmitted (e.g., compare the synoptic gospels with John’s). And more to the point, we cannot know with certainty how the Lord meant His words–probably spoken in Aramaic–to be understood.

    Perhaps, in fairness to Peter, the safest course is not to take a dogmatic position either way, but to ask, as Spencer W. Kimball, “Are we sure of his motive in that recorded denial?� And then, to not be afraid of uncertainty about the matter (see, Bruce C. Hafen, “On Dealing with Uncertainty,� BYU Devotional, 9 January 1979, Ensign, Aug. 1979, 63-4 where he also addresses the Peter question).

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