No one speaks as often as Peter, and no one is spoken to by the Lord as often as Peter. No disciple is so frequently rebuked by the Lord as Peter; no disciple ever rebukes the Lord except Peter. God took a common man with an impulsive, unsubmissive personality and shaped him into a rocklike leader– the dominant figure in the first twelve chapters of Acts, where the church was born.
There are certain obvious features in Simon Peter’s natural disposition that were critical to his leadership ability.
- Inquisitive. People who are content with what they don’t know, happy to remain ignorant about what they don’t understand, complacent about what they haven’t analyzed, and comfortable living with problems they haven’t solved– such people cannot lead. In the Gospel accounts, Peter asks more questions than all the other apostles combined. It was Peter who asked how often he needed to forgive. It was Peter who asked what reward the disciples would get for having left everything to follow Jesus.
- Initiative. A true leader must be the kind of person who makes things happen. He is a starter. Peter not only asked questions; he was also usually the first one to answer any question posed by Christ.
- Involvement. True leaders are always in the middle of the action. Jesus came to the disciples one night out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, walking on the water in the midst of a violent storm. Who out of all the disciples jumped out of the boat? Peter. People often look at that incident and criticize Peter’s lack of faith. But let’s give him credit for having faith to leave that boat in the first place. Similarly, although Peter denied Christ, he and John were the only ones who followed Jesus to the high priest’s house to see what would become of Jesus. Peter was the only one close enough for Jesus to turn and look him in the eyes when the rooster crowed.
That was the raw fabric of which Peter was made: an insatiable inquisitiveness, a willingness to take the initiative, and a passion to be personally involved.
Peter was quick to speak and quick to act. He always tried to take control of every situation. In order to balance that side of him, the Lord taught him submission, restraint, humility, love, compassion, and courage. And because of the Holy Spirit’s work in his heart, he did become a great leader.
Peter arrogantly insisted that he would never stumble. Yet despite his protestations, before the night was over, he did deny Jesus, and his whole world was severely shaken. His ego was deflated. His self-confidence was annihilated. His pride suffered greatly. But his faith never failed. Peter needed to learn compassion through his own ordeal so that when it was over, he could strengthen others in theirs.
Peter’s life could be summed up in the final words of his second epistle: “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). That is exactly what Simon Peter did, and that is why he became Rock — the great leader of the early church.