In reading this passage I was struck with something very personal in it, both for Peter and for me. Peter is writing a letter here of profound theological importance, of course, but it is the product of his own very personal relationship with Jesus.
In reading this passage I was struck with something very personal in it, both for Peter and for me. Peter is writing a letter here of profound theological importance, of course, but it is the product of his own very personal relationship with Jesus. Peter walked with, ate with, talked with Jesus. They shared in the hardships and the joys of Jesus’ ministry together. Jesus spoke to him with the closeness and intimacy of human friendship. Peter watched Jesus too. He watched Jesus’ reactions to the people who came to him. He watched him feed them, heal them and speak to them. He had come to know by personal experience that, “Christ suffered [for him and] for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” And Peter, when he wrote this letter, had been following in those footsteps humbly and faithfully. He knew the consequences of following Jesus too.
Who could have known Jesus better than Peter? He knew as a fact that, “[Jesus] committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” Peter had seen him insulted by the crowds and by the Scribes and the Pharisees. He saw that Jesus “returned no insult.” He watched Jesus suffer and knew that, “when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly,” the Father. Peter knew that when Jesus was suspended on the Cross that, though he, “bore no sin in his body,” he “bore our sins in his body upon the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” More importantly, because Peter had sinned against Jesus three times the night before Jesus was crucified, he knew that it was by Jesus’ wounds that he himself had been saved.
Peter knew all of this in the immediacy of the moment. He knew it by having been Jesus’ companion and friend. He knew it by his own failure and his sorrow. He knew it, too, because Jesus appeared to him again and again over the 40 days after his resurrection, to tell him how much he was loved and to encourage him and the others to take Christ’s message of salvation to the ends of the earth.
We know this by faith alone. We know it because of the Gospels and because of the letters written by Paul and Peter and the others in the scriptures. Our personal relationship with Jesus has an entirely different kind of intimacy than that which Peter knew. If we believe, and in our believing, we open our hearts, minds and souls to God, he comes to dwell in us, in our very souls, to encourage us, to show us his love through his unconditional forgiveness. We know, by faith, that we are healed by his wounds and we are filled with humble joy. We know that because Jesus became man and died for our sins, we are healed. We know by his resurrection and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we are not alone, we have not been abandoned. He is with us here and now. By faith we know this. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)