It sure looked easy for Peter to give up his old life, as Christ asks of all of us. Other than the occasional fishing trip and passing the hat, he was going from an established income and way of life to no home, no income, and most importantly, no idea what came next. But he did it- he just walked away from all he knew and took up an entirely new life. Easy.
Or was it?
Walking away was the easy part. But separating himself from the old life and building the new one were two different things, as he would find out. “Then Peter said, "See, we have left everything we have and followed you." (Luke 18:28) But there were things he hadn’t left behind- and wouldn’t for a very long time.
He had to leave behind a mortal man’s perspective. For all his loyalty to Jesus the Man, he had a hard time seeing Jesus as God. He disputed Jesus when told of His impending death, more than once. He refused- at first- to allow Jesus to wash his feet. He even took up the sword to save Him from the mob. And each one of these he was scolded for, to the point of losing his place in God’s scheme of things- "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." (John 13:8) Peter had to learn to look past personalities, look past this life, and sell himself to the eternal plan.
Then, as they say in the Green Lantern comics, he had to overcome great fear. “29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.” (Mark 14:29-31) But he didn’t overcome that fear. He caved, just as Jesus predicted. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. “ (Which, ironically comes from I Peter 3:15-17) Peter had to learn not only to believe, but to go out of his comfort zone to defend that faith.
He also had to overcome years of Jewish tradition. Excuse the lengthy passage:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
…34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (from Acts 10.)
Peter had to overcome the dietary traditions passed down for years in the Law. Centuries of tradition were holding him back from serving Christ among the Gentiles. “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (I Cor. 9:23)
Finally, he had to figure out that he couldn’t just play to the audience. “Now when Peter[a] had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. “ (Gal. 2:11-12) He couldn’t be this expanded, openly accepting Christian to one group and “Jew first” to others. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
So after Peter left his old life behind, he had to leave his old LIFE behind- His mortal perspective, his fear of standing up for his faith, his time-hardened traditions, and his priorities. He found, as we need to find- that becoming the New Man is more than accepting Christ and putting the rest on autopilot. Walking away from the old life physically IS the easy part. It’s what comes after that is hard- and makes the difference.