Without a doubt, the breaking of believers draws us closer to Him, sending us to the Fountain of Grace as unworthy recipients of our Savior’s redeeming work. For most of us, brokenness is not a moment, but a process — a distinct series of events that God uses to break us of self-reliance and self-absorption.
The Apostle Peter is a powerful example of this process. The Lord had a plan for Peter, one through which He would break Peter and remake him for an effective life of ministry. Four instances reveal Peter’s breaking and remaking.
After the disciples fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus called to them, telling them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Peter’s answer was direct and possibly laden with a tinge of sarcasm from a tired fisherman: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Following their miraculous catch, how did Peter respond? He didn’t laugh or claim the prosperity of believing. Instead, he was broken as he fell at the feet of Jesus and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (v. 8).
Another incident took place when Jesus walked on the water (Matt. 14:22–32). As the disciples cowered in fear, Peter spoke from his heart, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” The Lord said, “Come,” and Peter walked out onto the water until his eyes left Jesus, and he began to sink. The words of our Lord here were not designed to make Peter feel better about himself. They were direct and convicting: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Again, Peter was broken.
Later, Jesus questioned His disciples at Caesarea Phillipi (Matt. 16:13–20). “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He asked. They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” His next question became intensely personal: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, as usual, spoke quickly: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ affirmed that such a statement came not from Peter but from the work of God’s grace in his heart, adding, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Following this conversation, Jesus began to inform the disciples of His impending death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21–23). Peter took Him aside and “began to rebuke him.” Jesus didn’t pat him on the back for his well-meaning sentiments. Knowing that Satan would try to keep Him from the atoning work of the cross, He informed Peter that such a statement was born from the pit of hell, declaring, “Get behind me, Satan! . . . For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Jesus confronted the recently affirmed-and-honored Peter. For a third time, He broke Peter.
Just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus shared with His disciples again that He would be betrayed, put to death, and raised on the third day. He also said they would all leave Him and forsake Him (Matt. 26:30–35). After Jesus’ assertion, Peter boldly stated, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (v. 35). Jesus declared, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (v. 34).
Scripture subsequently reveals the three denials of Peter, concluding at a fire where he swore and vehemently declared that he did not “know Christ” (Luke 22:54–62). After the final denial, Jesus caught his eye, and Peter stole away into the dark, the shame of his denials consuming him (vv. 61–62). For a fourth time, Peter was broken.
Yet how marvelous is the transforming grace of Christ. Those whom the Lord breaks, He remakes.
Following the resurrection, some of the disciples went out to fish in the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–14). From the seashore, the resurrected Christ called out to them, “Children have you caught anything?” “No,” they answered. “We have toiled all night and have caught nothing.” He then commanded them to cast their nets on the other side. As 153 fish filled the nets, the disciples cried, “It is the Lord.” Our Lord was again preparing these fishermen to be “fishers of men.” Peter swam ashore, where he found the Lord preparing breakfast. Beside another fire, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these?” (21:15–19). The interplay is profound and pointed. When asked the question a third time, Peter was “grieved” in his heart. He knew what the Lord was doing. Peter, having denied Christ three times, was now confessing Him three times. His repentance matched his sin — three denials, three confessions.
Peter, broken and remade by grace, was ready to be used by the Lord and to begin his ministry in earnest. The next time Peter stood up in Jerusalem, he proclaimed, “This Jesus . . . you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23–24). Three thousand came to Christ from this once-broken, remade man.