by Jean Wilund
All That Glitters . . .
I saw the glittering rock in the water and knew my life was about to take a rich, golden turn.
Carrying my bright future home to Mom, she studied the rock and the gold that glimmered through it. “Oh, how wonderful,” she said. “You’ve found a beautiful piece of pyrite. You know, they call it ‘fool’s gold’ because people often mistake it for real gold.”
My pride and shining future crumbled under the pyrite’s worthlessness.
Sometimes I wonder if this is how Jesus’ disciple Simon felt.
When Jesus first called him to become a disciple, the apostle John tells us Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter) (John 1:42, ESV).
Cephas means Peter, and Peter means rock.
Simon Peter vs Simon Pyrite
Simon often looked less like Simon Peter — he who would become a rock — and more like Simon Pyrite — he who glints of gold but is worthless.
Jesus looked at Simon and saw everything about him. He saw Simon’s energy and passion, his impetuous heart of devotion, and his tendency to allow his fears to crush him. The sum of this often led him into trouble.
But Jesus also saw in Simon the rock of faith he’d become. He saw Peter. But his transformation would be slow and waver between bedrock proclamations to rocky recantations.
The Rise and Fall of Simon Pyrite
Simon’s faith shined when he walked on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, but when the waves lapped against his legs, he sunk into despair and a sea of trouble (Matthew 14:22-33)
Simon shined again when he proclaimed Jesus as Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of John . . . And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-19)
But immediately after, in a moment of pyrite faith, Simon rebuked Jesus, the Creator of the universe. He scolded the Lord for saying He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, and die at the hands of evil men. Simon proclaimed, “Never!” Jesus responded by comparing Simon to Satan. Ouch. (Matthew 16:21-23)
Jesus intended for Simon, and the others, to understand going to the cross was the only way He could accomplish what God wanted and Satan didn’t. He’d save souls from sin.
Simon Pyrite’s darkest moment arose as Jesus’ darkest hour descended.
After declaring only hours earlier he’d go to prison with Jesus and die with Him, Simon denied he even knew Him. Three times. (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)
Jesus told him he’d do it, and he did. Even with Jesus’ warning, Simon stumbled and fell.
Do You Feel More Like Simon Pyrite Than Simon Peter?
None of us start with impervious faith. We want it, but fear, pride, or some other temptation overwhelm us. Our faith feels like little more than worthless pyrite. Shame grips us.
What Can We Do? Remember These Three Truth:
1. Jesus’ Grace Covers You
Imagine the crushing weight Simon must have felt as Jesus hung on the cross. Did he believe he’d ever be forgiven? Judas may have betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders, but Simon knew he also could be branded a betrayer. As his third denial had spewed out of his mouth, Jesus had turned and looked right at him (Luke 22:6-61).
Some rock he’d turned out to be.
But after Jesus rose from the grave, of all the disciples, He revealed Himself to Peter first (Luke 24:34). None of the Gospels recorded their private conversation. But whatever Jesus said to Simon, it wasn’t Simon Pyrite who emerged from their meeting. It was Peter.
Jesus’ grace removed the vile stain of Simon’s sin. His grace lifted him out of the depths of his grievous shame and made a way for Peter to serve God again, fully forgiven.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
This same grace covers any who turn away from their sin and shame and turn to Christ and believe. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:20-21, Titus 2:11-14)
2. Jesus’ Love Restores You
Jesus did more than forgive Peter. He restored Peter back into His love.
The last chapter of John captured the beautiful scene where Peter leaped out of a boat and swam to shore to Jesus. He was a restored man. On the shore, Jesus affirmed Peter as the rock who would care for His sheep. (John 21:4-19).
It’s wonderful to be forgiven. It’s beyond wonderful to forgiven and loved.
Jesus offers both to even the worst of sinners when they return. Even to those who’ve turned their backs on Him and have run after anyone but Him. (I Timothy 1:13-16)
When we bow in our hearts before Jesus in humble sorrow for our sin, Jesus lifts us up and restores us back into His love. (Romans 10:9-10)
Let’s not allow our sin and shame to keep us away. If we return, He’ll shower us with His grace and love.
3. Jesus’ Spirit Empowers You
When Peter returned to Jesus, He gave Simon and the other disciples what he’d lacked during his Pyrite years—the Holy Spirit.
Because the Holy Spirit holds resurrection power in His hands, He immediately gave Peter the power to obey God and to want to do what pleased Him. (Hebrews 13:20-21; Philippians 2:13, Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Immediately after he received the Holy Spirit, we see a changed Peter. A bold Peter who fearlessly proclaimed Christ not just to the Jews, but to everyone. (Acts 2:1-41)
If we’ve trusted in Jesus, God has given us this same Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). And He’ll build in us the same rock-solid faith He built into Peter.
Faith More Precious Than Gold
Jesus’ invitation is clear—trust in Him and receive His grace, His love, and the Holy Spirit’s power to trust and obey (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9-13).
No one starts out following Christ with bedrock faith. But just as Jesus demonstrated patience with Peter from the first chapter of John to the last, He deals patiently with us.
Our fears, pride, and doubts may rise and threaten to wreck our faith. But they’ll crumble against our strong foundation, Jesus Christ. He is our priceless Rock. If we trust in Him, He’ll build faith in us more precious than gold.