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I have to confess that I have a great love for St Peter – precisely because he is far from perfect. He is so much one of us that it makes me feel it is possible to follow him. I tend to be very cautious, but like many women who are, I appreciate a man who is not, who will stand forth and act – even if sometimes the thinking comes later; I work well with such men, as I can provide all the caveats anyone wants, but find it difficult to know what to do with the caveats once I have uttered them. St Peter clearly had a heart as big as a house. His impetuosity keeps getting him into trouble.

At Caesarea-Philippi, no sooner has he said that Jesus is the Messiah, than Jesus has to tell him off when Peter thinks he knows better. At the Last Supper he is equally sure of his own opinion; he won’t ever betray Jesus. Yet in the Garden he cannot keep his eyes open and watch a while. Later, he vehemently denies ever knowing Jesus – and is ashamed. How like all of us. So easy to say we will be there for Jesus and with Him; but easier to fall away. But Peter gets up every time. He goes to the tomb, though had he stopped to think, he might have been scared by the Roman soldiers who would be there; but again, he rushes on – a bit slower than John, but he gets there.

Jesus loved him too. He forgives him and he bids him feed his sheep. We see Peter doing just that, but it is still the same old Peter. He’s fine sharing table-fellowship with the Gentiles, until men from Jerusalem remind him that’s not what he’s supposed to do as a good Jew. Peter put being a good evangelist first. But then he hesitates, and Paul tells him off. Peter takes it in good part, and one begins to sense why he was the leader of the Apostles. With a heart like a lion, he was not an egotistical man. He loved the brethren and they loved him, and part of that was sometimes finding himself in hot water; but no one seems to have borne a grudge against him.

That big-hearted Galilean fisherman gave up everything to follow Jesus. On that night of Gethsemane he must have felt it had all ended in failure. But he did not go home to Galilee; he stayed with the others. We do not know what it was they intended to do, perhaps just lie low until the fuss had died down and leave Jerusalem, hidden in the crowds leaving after the Passover. Perhaps they would have looked for another leader. But that was not what God had in store for Peter.

As leaders go, Peter had huge flaws, and his judgment was not always of the best. But these things were outweighed by his courage in following Jesus and not despairing, even when it would have been easier to have done so. Judas hanged himself. Peter repented and set us an example of perseverance which we would do well to follow.