“Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!”Acts 2:36
Acts 2:36 contains words that were spoken to thousands of people 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The orator is mocked as he speaks, but his message is received by numerous listeners. Standing tall, proud, and filled with courage, the speaker defends and proclaims Jesus. However, the spokesman’s boldness is a surprising turn of events, as he denied knowing Jesus only 50 days earlier.
We all love a good underdog story. Whether in movies, books, or news sources, we are captured by the journey toward success. We feel a sense of relief when our character overcomes an obstacle, and we tense when another challenge arises. At the end of a good story when the battle is fought, crime solved, and the final match is done, we smile, for the least likely to succeed has displayed courage in the face of fear and won.
The apostle Peter’s story fits right into the underdog narrative. When we read his story, we have foreknowledge of the ending, so we may not view him as an underdog. However, look at his character up until the resurrection. Would you assume a close disciple of Jesus would cut off the ear of a priest’s servant, dissociate himself from Jesus three times out of fear, and curse at those who accused him of lying? There is no way we would have seen his potential as a courageous proclaimer of the gospel. He is even called “Satan” by Jesus as his selfishness came in the way of God’s plan. Even Judas was not called “Satan.” Think about that for a moment. Without knowing how his story ends, Peter’s life doesn’t appear to lead toward a career in the ministry.
There is something else about underdogs that attracts us to them. We see ourselves in them. The fear they experience resembles our own fears. The endurance they display reminds us to keep enduring. We admire their courage and are reminded to demonstrate courage when fearful. Moreover, we rejoice in their victory as it gives us hope that triumph is within reach.
It is easy to judge Peter until we realize there is a bit of him in all of us. Have we ever been fearful in proclaiming our faith? Has our anger ever caused us to respond in ways we shouldn’t? Do our desires and self-centeredness ever seem more important than God’s plan?
Peter’s story does not end at a low point, as 50 days later he courageously defends Jesus. Despite being mocked and possibly facing punishment, Peter who denied Him now gladly declares His message. Peter’s strength did not come from his own power but God at work within him. He saw the living Jesus and recognized he could face any fear, as Jesus who defeated death walked with him.
What hope that brings to you and me that our Lord who triumphed over death walks with us! He allows us to courageously face life and rise from any challenge victorious.