The apostle Peter had every reason to be well experienced in the art of repentance. Peter was one of the 12 apostles, destined to sit on one of "twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).
His calling was a lofty one. He was the rock among his companions (John 1:42 ... Cephas – Kephas, stone). With James and John, Peter was part of the inner circle of companions to the Master who were witnesses to the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, II Peter 1:16-17).
He had been called to be a "fisher of men" and had willingly forsook all, leaving his nets to follow his Lord (Luke 5:10-11). When he gave up his fishing and signed on with Jesus, did he repent? Certainly his repentance and dedication would have surpassed our own, but was it complete? Did it last?
Peter was subject to many learning experiences from the Master:
But, he continued to face new challenges, such as in the garden: we all know the story. All three of these special disciples fell asleep while the Master was sweating "great drops of blood" – in agony over his coming sacrifice (Luke 22:44).
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Think about it. How would we have done?
Peter was defiant. He was so sure that he would be able to go with the master, even unto death: "And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death" (Luke 22:33). But what was he told?
Here is a classic example of a statement that should provoke us all to a more extensive self-assessment. How could this man – who had walked, and talked with the messiah for 3 years – who had been able to confess that "thou art the Christ, the son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16) – how could he possibly need conversion (repentance)?
Peter betrayed the Master three times and he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). The miracle of the resurrection gave him significant additional strength. But did this finally convert him? Was he finally able to deny himself and "take up his cross daily" (Luke 9:23) and begin to "feed his sheep" (John 21:16-17)?
In our own self examination, can we identify with Peter? Have we ever felt that we were being sifted like wheat by our adversary – sin in the flesh? Do we have too many things left to do (just for ourselves, not having the time to feed and nurture the flock)?
Let us all hope that we are progressing from babes to being of full age in the process of repentance (learning the real difference between good and evil).
Peter becomes a good example of the fact that true repentance is a process, and there are stages. We've talked about his early stages: three years with the Master, a close friend along with James and John – all men who had left their nets together to become fishers of men.
We would certainly think that as a witness to the resurrection he would have gained strength on the road to conversion, but even that miracle did not provoke him to an instantaneous completion of his repentance.
Peter was among the eleven who were in the room when Jesus appeared unto them. Along with Thomas, he saw the wounds in his hands, and the hole in his side (John 20:26-29). But for whatever reason that was not enough.