Book Review: Jesus and Peter – Growing in Friendship with God

Jesus and Peter: Growing in friendship with God
Michael Perham
ISBN 9780281067541
Publisher SPCK Publishing

I liked this book. (It’s OK, there is a bit more to this review than that).

I will admit straight away that partly I chose it to review because after reading a lot of very difficult books, something that allowed me to ponder on Peter and not my own Christian faith appealed.

No chance.

There were ways in which this engaged me in a way I hadn’t quite anticipated.

This book is the first time I’ve therefore encountered the kind of detail that is presented in the text. We’re given Greek alternatives, and contrasts between the different versions. It’s not a worthy theological tome – but an incredibly readable story, with these details along the way enriching our understanding and allowing us to see things from different perspectives. At times it felt like having a tableau in front of us, and being able to freeze-frame, walk around the situation, think about what was going on, what was recorded and why. For example, Peter’s jumping out of the boat in order to meet with Jesus on the lakeside for that post-resurrection breakfast.

I was presented with ideas I have half-thought about, but never really considered deeply. Where did Peter first meet Jesus? How does Peter’s decision to follow compare to ours? Annoying questions in some ways, since what I didn’t want was a book about call or vocation.

In talking about Pentecost, the descriptions of the working of the Holy Spirit, now it’s not all fire, earthquake and instant tongues were quiet, helpful reminders for those of us not given to dramatic experiences.

What I wasn’t sure about were the passages talking about friendship and intimacy – that might just be me, though, struggling with how those ideas work. Perhaps I’m just not sure about the idea – or even the word – friendship; maybe it makes me think more ‘playground’ than ‘deep and sacrificial relationship.’ I understood the general point – I think I just struggle with words that describe experience of Jesus in words that imply corporeality, which is how I see ‘friendship.’

I did get what I wanted from the book – more discussion on the nature of the relationship between Peter and Jesus, more insight into the motives and character of Peter. Like many people, the ability of Peter to get things wrong can be encouraging…

I’d recommend this book for a few reasons. It’s a great telling of an interesting story. It seems it would be a good introduction to looking at the Bible in more depth. It reminds us how our our actions and our faith can be modelled on the first disciples, even though we’re separated by several thousand years.

Bishop Michael sums Peter up as “follower, disciple, evangelist, witness, friend; and as such he is exemplar and encourager, [but also by] his frequent failure to understand, by his habit of saying just the wrong thing, by his struggle, even by his denial.” (p110)

That’s the man I like.

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