Imagine you’re sitting in a roadside pub, having an inexpensive cup of some rather foul wine, and you’re not thinking about anything in particular. Around you are the sounds, sights and smells of such a place: the swearing, the dirty jokes, the unkempt-looking and -smelling sorts of people who spend time in this sort of place.
Why are you here? Because, having traveled south to see the baptizer-teacher down at the Jordan—having not been particularly impressed by the weirdness of the experience of that man—you are waiting for your brother, Andrew (who has lagged behind to talk with the baptizer), in order to travel back to the Galilee and get back to work on your fishing boats.
You are sitting here, in this roadside pub, thinking of nothing really at all, when the door opens—the light flooding in—and in comes your brother, just now. There is a very strange look in the look of his eyes. He approaches in the half-darkness of the pub and grips you by both shoulders.
“I have met the Messiah,” he says, “the Anointed of God!”
You take a deep breath in—let it out. “Where?” you ask.
“He is sitting under a tree outside,” Andrew says.
“No,” Andrew replies. “God.”
You wait for him to say something else. He just stares at you. “God is sitting outside under a tree?”
“Outside? Under a tree?”
He nods again.
“Alright,” you say. “Let’s go have a look.”
You pay off your tab and then wind your way through the half-light, following after your brother, out through the day-drinkers of this roadside pub. The outside light is blinding for a moment. You follow after Andrew down the road to the left; then across a narrow path across a field—there is a short stubby tree in the middle-distance. In its shade is another man of the Galilee—the younger brother of James of Zebedee—and then, for the first time, you see the Man your brother was talking about.
He is rising to His feet to meet you in the shade, there.
His eyes are sparkling with the warmest kind of affection.
He steps out of the shade—the sunlight lights His features—He extends His hands toward you—all warmth, all kindness, all joyfulness—and then (quite surprisingly) He embraces you, kisses you on the cheek. He is whispering in your ear as He does so:
“Everyone calls you Simon, but I won’t. For me, you will always be Peter—Petros—a rock.”
You take a step back and away from the intensity of this Man. The look in His eyes is ageless; all-consuming; eternal. You are both awed and slightly afraid of the look in His eyes. This encounter with Him is the beginning of the rest of your life…
Decades later, imagine that man—now an old man—sitting down to a bare-topped table and taking up his writing quill. He is again thinking of that day—of the way it felt to make the acquaintance of God incarnate—and he smiles to himself and then writes this:
Simon PETER, a servant and messenger of Jesus Christ, sends this letter to those who have been given a faith as valuable as ours in the righteousness of our God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. May you know more and more of grace and peace as your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord grows deeper.
He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature.